ST. JOHN’S, NEWFOUNDLAND — Goaltender Curtis McElhinney was the same, but the team in front of him was a whole lot better as the Portland Pirates bounced back for a 5-2 win over the St. John’s IceCaps in an American Hockey League game Wednesday night.
McElhinney turned in a first-star performance Wednesday, stopping 40 shots, and his teammates came up with four unanswered goals in the third period as the Pirates improved to 3-4-1 after beginning the two-game series in St. John’s with a 5-1 loss on Tuesday.
In the series opener, a game in which he faced 41 shots, McElhinney also was his team’s best performer, despite giving up five goals. Dave King, the acting coach of the Pirates while Ray Edwards attended a family funeral, said it was a shame McElhinney’s performance Tuesday was wasted and challenged the team to play better.
The Pirates responded, with Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Mathieu Beaudoin each producing a goal and an assist, and Kyle Chipchura scoring twice, including an empty-netter, in addition to stellar work on the penalty kill.
And this time, it was enough to make McElhinney a winner in a start he badly wanted.
“We talked about it in the morning,” he answered when asked if he had requested that King give him a second straight start. “I need to get a feel for things right now. Justin (Pogge) and I have flopped back and forth and this time, I really wanted that second opportunity. It’s a great feeling (to get the win).
“I know Justin wants to be No. 1 as much as I do. And that’s a good thing. The competition is good for both us. But yeah, I want to be that guy. I want to be a leader for this team.”
For the second game in a row, the Pirates carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, this time on Ashton Rome’s first goal of the season, which came with just over three minutes remaining. And once again, the IceCaps responded in the second, with a power-play goal by Shawn Weller and a go-ahead goal by Jason King.
The difference on this night was the third period, which saw Portland get a tying goal from Pouliot, his first of the season, off a goal-mouth scramble in the opening minute.
However, the turning point came five minutes later, immediately after the Pirates killed an elbowing minor to Maxim Goncharov.
The Russian winger stepped out of the penalty box and joined what turned out to be a three-on-two rush with Pouliot and Beaudoin, who tapped a rebound past IceCaps goalie Peter Mannino.
NOTES: Portland left wing Igor Gongalsky began serving a two-game suspension as a consequence of an elbowing incident Saturday night against the Providence Bruins. He also will miss Friday night’s game against the Manchester Monarchs at the Cumberland County Civic Center. … A home game against the Monarchs originally scheduled for 11 a.m. March 6 has been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 28. Tickets previously purchased for the March 6 date will be honored.