PORTLAND — The Portland Pirates played one of their most complete games of the season in a 3-0 victory over the Connecticut Whale before 3,448 Friday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“It was a big win,” said Derek Whitmore, who scored two goals. “We’ve played these guys and they’ve been right behind us in the standings. It was nice to get the two points this time instead of getting just one.”
Last month, the Whale beat the Pirates twice in overtime. Friday’s win left Portland in sole possession of second place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division, breaking a tie with Connecticut.
“I liked the overall effort,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. “We came hard and we pressed the attack. We made smart plays, both ways. It was a very complete game for us.”
David Leggio, who normally serves as the backup to goalie Jhonas Enroth, made 21 saves to post the Pirates’ first shutout of the season. It was his first action in nearly two weeks.
“A tough job he has, to sit there sometimes for a week or two and stay mentally prepared,” Dineen said. “He definitely played a real solid game for us.”
“It’s not hard to stay ready on this team,” said Leggio, who is in his first full AHL season. “The guys practice hard every day. They’re always willing to go on early and give me shots. They help me to stay as game ready as possible.”
Leggio gave a lot of credit for his success to the way the Pirates played in front of him.
“The guys played one of the best games they’ve played so far, especially considering what talent Connecticut has,” he said. “They’re loaded up and down the lineup.
“We played hard. We played tough. We limited their scoring chances.”
Portland has earned a point in 11 of its last 15 games.
“Our power play hasn’t been helping us in this little stretch here, but we’re winning games and that gives a lot of credit to the defensive zone play,” Whitmore said. “We’re playing real well five on five and getting contributions from everywhere.”
The Pirates scored with 27 seconds left in the first period when center Matt Ellis jammed the puck inside the right post for his seventh goal of the season. Dennis McCauley set it up by sending the puck out front while on his stomach behind the net.
Less than five minutes into the second period, Whitmore made it 2-0 when he put in a one-timer from the top of the left circle.
With less than two minutes left, Maxime Legault threaded a pass between two defenders and Whitmore scored on a breakaway.
NOTES: Right wing Mark Parrish returned to the Portland lineup after missing 19 games because of a groin injury. Parrish, a veteran of 11 NHL seasons, skated on a line with Justin Bowers and T.J. Brennan. The Pirates assigned rookie forward Jacob Lagace, who had two goals and eight assists in 29 games, to the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors. The first 500 fans entering tonight’s game will receive a free seat cushion courtesy of the Portland Press Herald.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: