PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates hoped to earn at least a split at home before heading west to New York to continue their second-round playoff series against the Binghamton Senators.
Instead, they now have to dig themselves out of a hole and hope to change the direction of the American Hockey League Atlantic Division finals.
Down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series after a pair of losses at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the Pirates enter Game 3 with a stronger sense of urgency. The series continues at 7:05 tonight at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.
“It’s a definite disadvantage for us going out there,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said. “They have full momentum. They’re able to go back and play their game at home, and we’re going to have to have some pretty good hockey on our part to go in there, and there’s no stealing games. We’re going to have to go out and earn it.”
But at this point, it isn’t just about winning the next game.
“We don’t even look at it as a game anymore,” Pirates right wing Mark Mancari said. “You have to go out and win a period at a time. At the end of the night you have to battle. You have to capitalize on every opportunity. You have to be good in your zone. We have to go out and we have to win a period at a time.”
The Pirates opened the series with a 3-2 loss Wednesday, then wasted a 2-0 lead in a 5-3 loss Thursday night. Less than six minutes after Mancari tied the game at 3-3 with a blistering wrist shot from the top of the slot, Binghamton defenseman Bobby Raymond scored his first AHL goal on a controversial play late in the third period. Portland thought the Senators should have been called for offsides just before the goal.
“They capitalized on more opportunities than we did and that happens in hockey,” Mancari said after Thursday’s loss. “But we can’t let it happen if we want to keep going and win. We put ourselves in a big hole, and it doesn’t help to go play three games in their arena. But I think it shows, our last game (at) Connecticut, that we can play on the road, and we’re going to have to.”
Mancari referred to Portland’s 4-2 series win over the Connecticut Whale in the division semifinals. The Pirates won three games at home and lost two games at the XL Center, but won Game 6 in Hartford, scoring three goals in the final 23 minutes to wrap up the series.
After an overnight stay in Worcester, Mass., on Thursday night, the Pirates headed to Binghamton for the first time since March 18 — a 3-2 Portland win.
“We’ve got to refocus, take what we need to take out of this game,” Pirates center Matt Ellis said. “It’s the playoffs. You can’t let your highs get too high and your lows get too low. You’ve got to keep that even keel.”
NOTES: The Buffalo Sabres assigned Zack Kassian to the Portland Pirates. Kassian, a 20-year-old forward, was Buffalo’s first-round selection in the 2009 NHL draft and signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Sabres in November. He spent the 2010-11 season with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. In 56 regular-season games this season, Kassian had 26 goals and 51 assists. He had six goals and 10 assists in 16 playoff games but missed the final two games of the playoffs after he was suspended by the OHL. … The Pirates released goalie John Muse and forward Joe Whitney, who both played at Boston College, from their amateur tryout contracts.
Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: