BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – The Portland Pirates came into Friday night’s game well-rested by American Hockey League standards, but facing a rugged three-game trip.
It took a while for the Pirates to get going, but Derek Whitmore snapped a tie with eight minutes to play to send the Pirates to a 3-2 victory.
Portland moved two points closer to first place in the Atlantic Division. Manchester still leads by one point.
“You can’t go 3-0 on a trip without winning the first game,” Whitmore said. “We did a great job of taking care of business. We go to Hershey, then have a tough ride to Providence for Sunday.”
The Pirates played for the first time since ending a stretch of six games in nine days Monday, and it took time to find their rhythm. But Whitmore capped Portland’s late dominance.
“We should have kept the puck in, but I got a pass and fortunately found a hole,” Whitmore said of his shot from the left circle.
After mustering 20 shots over the first two periods, Portland fired 15 shots in the third and held Binghamton to six.
The Senators have lost 8 of 10 games following an eight-game winning streak.
“This was a playoff-type atmosphere,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said. “There was a high level of intensity and desperation on their part, trying to keep their playoff position.”
The Pirates responded after their three-day break.
“We got production from three of the four lines,” Dineen said. “We needed the break.”
The Pirates fell behind after 8:26 of the first period when Corey Locke intercepted a clearing attempt and fed Jim O’Brien, who wristed a shot that beat goalie David Leggio high to the stick side.
The second period began much better for the Pirates, the highest-scoring team in the AHL. They scored on their first two shots to take a 2-1 lead.
Luke Adam drove from the corner and found Mark Parrish waiting in the slot. Parrish drilled a shot that beat goalie Barry Brust to the far post just 1:02 into the period, tying it with his 12th goal of the season.
Less than four minutes later, the Pirates took the lead on Mark Voakes’ fourth goal in six games for Portland. He took a pass from Corey Troop and rifled a shot from the top of the right circle.
But the lead was short-lived; O’Brien scored again for the Senators.
Less than two minutes after Voakes’ goal, O’Brien took a diagonal cross-ice pass from Locke and beat Leggio to the short side from the right circle for his 20th goal.
Leggio kept the game tied with a stellar stretch on Binghamton’s lone power play of the period, making four saves in that span.
At a time when a goal could have really hurt, Leggio gave his team a chance to take advantage of Manchester’s 1-0 loss at Connecticut.
But with five games in hand on Manchester, the Pirates still have a cushion and plenty of opportunities to make up ground.
“Way to go Connecticut,” Dineen said. “Losing to Manchester at home (last weekend) stung us.”