PROVIDENCE, R.I. – By the time the first period ended Friday night, the Portland Pirates had dug themselves a hole that resembled hockey’s version of the Grand Canyon.
In fact, barely five minutes had elapsed when the Pirates found themselves trailing 2-0 en route to what would be a 6-1 loss to the Providence Bruins.
“This is the first time we’ve really faced any adversity this season,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “I don’t think we’ve lost three games in a row.”
Not only have the Pirates lost three games in a row (their first losing streak of that length) but they’ve also lost four of their last five. Portland has been outscored 15-4 during this slide.
That’s noteworthy considering during one stretch Portland won 13 of 15 games, which enabled the team to move into first place in the Atlantic Division.
“I don’t want to hear anything about excuses,” Edwards said, referring to the fact several Pirates are now with Phoenix. “The only way to get out of this is by putting it behind us and working hard. The way we played tonight was completely unacceptable.”
Portland received a premonition of things to come when Providence went on an early power play.
Torey Krug (two goals plus two assists) gunned a slap shot from the high slot that beat a screened Mark Visentin (23 saves) at 3:17.
Providence upped its lead to 2-0 when Carter Camper snapped a wrist shot from the right circle that deflected in off Visentin’s right arm at 5:16 for what could be described as a soft goal.
What transpired next was a sequence that could have enabled Portland to climb back into contention.
First, Providence was on another power play when Rob Klinkhammer of Portland sailed in on a breakaway.
Niklas Svedberg (25 saves) blocked his shot but Jordan Szwarz, who was trailing the play, flicked in the rebound for a short-handed goal at 7:29.
Less than a minute later, referee Darcy Burchell reviewed an apparent goal by Camper but waved it off.
To say Portland was unable to capitalize on that break would be an understatement.
“No question we had our chances,” Edwards said, “but when you don’t take advantage of them, what can you expect?”
It only got worse for Portland when Providence was skating with a five-on-three advantage and Krug scored on a slap shot from the top of the right circle at 9:51 for a 3-1 lead.
Kyle MacKinnon’s backhander with 35 seconds left in the middle period made it 4-1 and Providence tacked on two more goals in the third, one by Jamie Tardiff at 7:02 and the other by Maxime Sauve at 17:44.
“We didn’t play well in all areas of the game,” Edwards said. “Our special teams left a lot to be desired (Portland was 0 of 6 on the power play).
“Overall it was our worst game of the season.”
NOTES: Defenseman Chris Summers was named to the Eastern Conference team for the AHL All-Star Game. Summers replaces teammate David Rundblad, who’s with Phoenix.
Goalie Mike Lee was called up from Gwinnett of the ECHL to replace Chad Johnson, who’s on emergency recall by Phoenix. Johnson replaces the injured Mike Smith
Phoenix also recalled defenseman Nick Johnson.