HARTFORD, Conn. – It was your basic good news-bad news afternoon for the Portland Pirates on Sunday.
After being outplayed for much of the first two periods by the Atlantic Division-leading Connecticut Whale, the Pirates scored three goals, two by rookie center Ethan Werek, in less than nine minutes to take their second lead of the game.
But after All-Star rookie wing Jonathan Audy-Marchessault lifted home a rebound with 2:05 left in regulation, the Whale got shootout goals from Brendan Bell and Casey Wellman while Cam Talbot stopped all four Pirates attempts for a 5-4 victory before 3,457 at the XL Center.
“It’s very frustrating to give it back to them after we worked hard to get the lead,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards, whose team is off until returning to Hartford on Friday night.
“We broke down in coverage (on Audy-Marchessault’s tying goal), so it’s just very frustrating for that to happen at that point in the game. In our situation, if we fight like hell to get back, we’ve got to close it out.”
Edwards complimented Werek for his sixth and seventh goals of the season after strong work by Ryan Duncan, who was hospitalized after the game.
“When you go to the net, good things happen,” Edwards said of Werek’s goals, the second of which gave the Pirates a 4-3 lead with 5:54 left.
“That’s one of the things that we’ve been pushing with him all season, just simplifying his game and going hard to the net. Both his goals were going hard to the net.”
Duncan was taken to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center by ambulance after his face was cut by Wellman’s skate midway through overtime. Duncan was cut from one cheek under his nose to the other cheek.
“It’s a nasty cut,” Edwards said. “It wasn’t bleeding that much, but we knew it was a bad one right away when he came to the bench. I just hope that they have a good plastic surgeon to sew him up.”
The Pirates (29-28-3-4) are 4-4 in shootouts, and their 65 points are two shy of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Pirates got in position to claim the point when Werek converted a second rebound at 5:13 of the third period, Aaron Rome took a pass from Tyler Eckford and fired a 35-foot shot that went in off Talbot’s glove at 7:40 and Werek lifted a Duncan centering pass past Talbot a 4-3 lead.
But Audy-Marchessault sent the game to overtime when he converted Tommy Grant’s rebound for his second goal of the game and 22nd of the season with 2:05 left after Bell’s shot from the left point.
The Pirates outshot the Whale 6-1 in the 5-minute overtime, but Talbot was sharp, especially on Alexandre Bolduc’s bid from the left circle with 38 seconds left. Talbot then stopped Andy Miele, Mathieu Beaudoin, Brett Sterling and David Rundland to improve to 3-0 in shootouts.
The Whale (33-21-5-5) are 7-5 in shootouts.
Grant had two goals and two assists as the Whale overcame a Miele goal 5:40 into the game to improve their AHL-best home record to 19-6-2-4. Grant scored twice and Audy-Marchessault once in the second period to give the Whale a 3-1 lead.
The Pirates made their spirited comeback through the middle stages of the third period, but the Whale ultimately prevailed to improve to 3-2-1 against the Pirates, winning in overtime, regulation and now a shootout at home.