PORTLAND – Portland Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen found out how well new backup goalie Jeff Jakaitis could play Saturday night, and the Pirates found another way to win.
Jakaitis, a journeyman playing in only his fifth AHL game, made 45 saves, and Colin Stuart scored a power-play goal with less than two minutes left as the Pirates eked out a 5-4 win before a sellout crowd of 6,854 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Pirates’ sixth consecutive win kept them in first place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of Manchester. Portland hosts the Monarchs today.
“It wasn’t our sharpest defensive game,” said Portland center Paul Byron, who scored a goal and had two assists. “(Jakaitis) played a great game for us, coming in as a backup, but I can’t say enough about the team and how hard we compete and our never-say-die attitude.”
In snapping Providence’s four-game win streak, Portland gave up a season-high 49 shots.
“You know what, we’re playing such desperate hockey teams now,” Dineen said. “(Providence) played an extremely hard game tonight. They set the tempo a little bit, but we had a good response to it. “
Jakaitis, who has spent most of the season with the Dayton Gems in the Central Hockey League, was signed last weekend when Jhonas Enroth was called up to the NHL by the Buffalo Sabres.
It was Jakaitis’ second start for the Pirates. His first start came Feb. 28, 2009, when he stopped 31 shots in a 4-3 loss in a shootout against Hartford.
“I needed to know if he could play, and what better chance than in front of a full house,” Dineen said. “The crowd was fabulous, a real enthusiastic bunch.”
The Bruins held a 12-1 edge in shots during the first nine minutes. Providence rookie center Maxime Sauve opened the scoring by jamming a rebound into the left side for his team-high 19th goal of the season.
It took the Pirates just eight seconds to tie it. After the faceoff, Byron rushed down the right side with the puck.
Goalie Anton Khudobin stopped Byron’s shot, but rookie Luke Adam slid the rebound into the left side for his 24th goal.
Less than three minutes later, the speedy Byron set up another goal with a rush down the right side.
This time, after cutting in front of the crease, he was sent sprawling with the puck into the left circle, and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani scored on a wide-angled shot.
Less than five minutes into the second period, veteran forward Jeremy Reich popped in a rebound on a power play to make it 2-2.
With less than three minutes left in the period, the Pirates regained the lead when Dennis McCauley slammed a rebound inside the left post.
With less than two minutes left, former Pirate Trent Whitfield, scored on a short-handed breakaway to make it 3-3.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: