SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Failing to play to their strength cost the Portland Pirates dearly Saturday night.
The Springfield Falcons were able to use their speed to earn a 4-1 American Hockey League victory over the Pirates before 3,731 fans at the MassMutual Center.
Except for a good part of the first period, the Pirates were unable to contain that speed, and only solid goaltending from Jhonas Enroth (28 saves) kept them in the game.
“It was a number of things. We just got outplayed in a bunch of areas,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said. “There were some defensive miscues that ended up in our net.”
David LeNeveu, who has stolen more than a few games for the Falcons this season, frustrated the Pirates with a 26-save performance. Springfield has won six of its last seven games and has moved into a third-place tie with the Connecticut Whale in the Atlantic Division with 64 points.
Tom Sestito scored at 8:15 of the third period to give the Falcons a 3-1 lead and forced the Pirates to play desperation hockey. The Pirates kept crashing the net and applying pressure, but LeNeveu kept the door closed.
Sestito’s goal was a killer. It appeared Brian Roloff had Nikita Filatov pinned against the back dasher behind the net, but Filatov got free. He sent the puck out front to Sestito, who put it past Enroth for an insurance goal.
Tomas Kubalik pushed things out of reach with a goal with 3:19 left. Following a 2-on-1 break, Kubalik knocked a Kyle Wilson rebound past Enroth.
“They’ve got some size and speed,” Dineen said. “Our compete level just wasn’t high enough.”
There was a brief transformation for the Pirates after they fell behind, 2-0 in the first period. During a timeout, Dineen instructed his team to employ a strong forecheck.
The result was Springfield had a difficult time getting out of its own zone for the rest of the first period and the Pirates finished the period with the momentum.
But they failed to build on it. Portland abandoned that same forecheck and Springfield was able to control the tempo for most of the second period. Springfield had a 13-4 edge in shots that period and only some great work in goal by Enroth preventing the Falcons from padding their narrow lead.
“We were certainly looking for a better response in the second period, but we went back to our old way and our compete level wasn’t what it should have been,” Dineen said. “This was a disappointing loss.”
Enroth’s best save came with 2:29 left in the second period. He denied Filatov on a partial breakaway. Then with less than one minute left, Portland’s Dennis McCauley broke in alone but shot wide.
Filatov provided the Falcons with a 1-0 lead when he scored 1:56 into the game. After Enroth stopped shots by Sestito and Trevor Smith, he was out of position and failed to recover in time as Filatov scored on an open net.
Springfield made it 2-0 at 5:50 on a goal by former UMaine player Ben Guite.