BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Countless workers scurried about Saturday night at Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard to make sure the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ season opener went off without a hitch.
None of them, however, was as busy as Portland goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who made 33 saves to help the Pirates open with a 4-2 victory.
McElhinney, a former AHL All-Star and NHL backup with Calgary, made seven stops during a stretch of 5:38 in the third period when the Pirates had a one-goal lead and were on an extended penalty kill.
“I thought (McElhinney) was really good tonight,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “He gave us a chance to win.
“It’s nice to have goaltending like that, I tell you that. What it does is it relaxes the group and they know if they make a mistake, they’ve got somebody there to back them up.”
Mathieu Beaudoin’s second goal of the game, coming off a nifty two-on-one feed from Matt Watkins, finally took some pressure off McElhinney.
The third period started with the Pirates up a goal and trying to increase the lead. Marc- Antoine Pouliot missed a penalty- shot opportunity just 1:37 into the period when he went to his backhand and missed high.
Soon after, the Sound Tigers had a five-on-three advantage for 1:23 after two Pirates were sent off for separate infractions. Once McElhinney helped stave off that threat, Portland was right back in the box with another two-minute penalty.
“To weather that storm there in the third, it was certainly a momentum shift for us because we were able to come back and get that extra goal,” said McElhinney.
“It’s the first game, obviously, and everybody is trying to get a feel for how the game is called, but I really thought outside of the penalties, it was a good opening-night win for us.”
Portland built a two-goal cushion early in the second period with goals in a span of 2:35. Andy Miele gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead, scoring off a Garrett Stafford assist just 2:04 into the period before Beaudoin scored on a power play 5:35 into the second to push the lead to 3-1.
“There was a little bit of luck on that one,” Beaudoin said. “It hit the post and then hit off the back of their goaltender and went in.”
The Sound Tigers got one back with 4:22 left in the second when Aaron Ness picked up a long rebound that deflected off the boards, then turned and fired, beating McElhinney between the pads.
The Pirates jumped on top just 3:03 into the game when Brett Hextall scored off assists from Miele and Ryan Duncan.
The Sound Tigers answered 1:27 later when Trevor Frischmon fed Tomas Marcinko from behind the net, and the 6-foot-6 defenseman found an open hole to the right of McElhinney.