PORTLAND – The puck rested at the feet of a defenseman in front of the goal, if only for a few seconds. Instinctively, Mark Parrish knew what to do. Pounce on the puck and shoot it.
More often than not, instincts pay off. Parrish’s gut reaction proved profitable Thursday night in the Portland Pirates’ 5-4 win over the Connecticut Whale in Game 5 of a best-of-seven AHL Atlantic Division semifinal at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Parrish picked up the puck from the skate blades of Pavel Valentenko and pushed a close-range shot past Whale goalie Cameron Talbot to break a 4-4 tie on Portland’s second power-play goal of the game.
“The power play’s been struggling, obviously,” said Parrish, whose team had gone 0 of 22 on the man-advantage in their last three games. “You’ve got to simplify and get to the net, get pucks to the net and get bodies to the net. Hopefully something will be laying there and somebody will capitalize.”
Parrish’s goal at 2:44 of the third period gave the Pirates a 3-2 series lead.
The Pirates squandered a three-goal lead, then had to play to protect a 5-4 lead through the remainder of the third. Despite being outshot 14-10 in the third, the Pirates continued to put defensive pressure on the Whale and after Connecticut pulled Talbot (22 saves) with a minute left for a sixth skater, Pirates goalie David Leggio made the final save of his 34 with 2.8 seconds left to preserve the win.
Pirates right wing Mark Mancari, who had a goal and two assists, said his team’s third-period success came down to minimizing mistakes.
“We were trying to keep the puck out of the middle, we were trying to stay away from turnovers and I think we did a good job there,” Mancari said. “And in our zone I think we did a good job of getting the puck away from the net.”
But Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen also pointed out that the Pirates led 4-1 midway through the second period before the Whale answered with three goals, including Brodie Dupont’s tying goal at 1:36 of the third.
“You get a three-goal lead and look what happens,” Dineen said. “No lead is safe in the playoffs and we proved that.”
Mancari and Travis Turnbull gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the first but less than three minutes after Luke Adam made it 3-0 after 45 seconds of the second, Kris Newbury scored Connecticut’s first goal. Newbury scored his second goal 21 seconds after Dennis McCauley gave the Pirates a 4-1 lead.
Then, with Paul Byron penalized for slashing, Chad Kolarik chipped at the puck in front of Leggio and caught the puck at an angle with his stick blade. The puck arched above Leggio and landed behind the goalie to cut the Pirates’ lead to 4-3. Dupont tied it at 1:36 of the third.
“We played undisciplined and took some penalties and we gave them a chance to get back in,” Parrish said of the second period.
“We can’t give them opportunities like that and we paid the price, but we went out with the win, which was important.”
NOTES: Connecticut goalie Dov Grumet-Morris left less than a minute into the second period after he took a shot off his goalie mask. Grumet-Morris finished with 13 saves but said afterward he was fine. Pirates defenseman T.J. Brennan, injured in Tuesday’s game in Connecticut, was wearing a walking boot on his left foot. The home team has won each of the five games in the series, including Portland’s three wins at the Civic Center.
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: