PORTLAND – After an injury-plagued season, goalie Michael Leighton is trying to regain the form he had while leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2010.
Leighton looked very sharp Friday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center while making 35 saves to lead the Adirondack Phantoms to a 3-0 American Hockey League win against the Portland Pirates.
Leighton, who underwent surgery on his back and a hip last season, has started four games for Adirondack this season and the Phantoms have won them all. Leighton and the Flyers lost the 2010 finals 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks.
“He’s played very well for us,” Adirondack Coach Joe Paterson said of Leighton, who is also a former Pirates goalie. “I thought he was very composed tonight and played very strong.”
The Pirates played without rookie center Andy Miele, the 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner who was called up Friday by the parent Phoenix Coyotes after leading the AHL team in scoring with three goals and four assists during the first four games of the season.
But Portland Coach Ray Edwards didn’t blame his team’s inability to get the puck past Leighton on Miele’s absence.
“The guys in the lineup have got to step up and that is just the way it is,” he said.
The Pirates held a 35-23 edge in shots, but Edwards said that statistic was misleading.
“I would have liked to see us penetrate a little more and attack the net,” he said. “Especially on the power play, we were too perimeter. You’ve got to get in there on the inside, in the guts of the game.”
Still, Portland was very much in the game until rookie left wing Harry Zolneirzyk, the team captain at Brown University last season, scored two power-play goals during the final 11 minutes.
“I don’t fault our guys’ efforts,” Edwards said. “We played a real stingy game.
“We didn’t give them much until the third period when we had to push it.”
The Pirates, who had gotten off to a slow start in each of their first four games, carried play for much of the first period, but Leighton kept them off the scoreboard. Less than nine minutes in, he stopped a breakaway attempt by Ashton Rome, who got behind the defense after stepping out of the penalty box. With less than three minutes left in the period, he stopped Rome again when he tried to tip in Ryan Hollweg’s centering pass from out of the left corner.
Three minutes into the second period, rookie Tyler Brown turned Garret Roe’s centering pass from behind the right side of the net into his first professional goal.
He flicked the puck past goalie Curtis McElhinney from point-blank range to provide Adirondack, the Flyers’ affiliate, with the only goal it needed.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]