SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – What a long strange trip it’s been for the Portland Pirates.
And it’s just getting started.
The weekend blizzard wiped out scheduled games at Providence on Friday and Bridgeport on Saturday. After spending two nights in Bridgeport, Conn., Portland finally got to play a game Sunday and ran into a hot goalie as the Springfield Falcons beat the Pirates 3-0 before 3,666 at the MassMutual Center.
The Pirates brought plenty of energy to the game and carried the play at times. Being bottled up in a hotel room most of the weekend and not getting any ice time likely hurt the Pirates.
This was one game where I told the guys I would give them a pass,” Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. “We just weren’t hungry tonight and we just weren’t sharp.”
Curtis McElhinney, who played for the Pirates during the 2011-12 season, was outstanding in goal for Springfield. One of three players who represented the Falcons in the American Hockey League All-Star Game in Providence last month, McElhinney finished with 28 saves to author his league-leading seventh shutout
“There’s certainly a few more guys on that team I’m familiar with, and it’s always fun to play with guys who I played with last year,” McElhinney said.
McElhinney was both good and lucky. Portland’s Chris Brown collected a rebound and stared into a wide-open net, only to fire high over the cage.
It was that kind of afternoon for the Pirates.
“McElhinney played great, but it shows we’ve got to be hungrier in the offensive zone and bear down more,” said Pirates winger Jordan Szwarz.”
David Savard, one of three players sent to Springfield last week by the parent Columbus Blue Jackets, scored a power-play goal early in the third period to provide the Falcons with a 3-0 advantage. Nick Drazenovic won a faceoff back to Savard, who one-timed his shot past Chad Johnson at 3:02.
Drazenovic moved into first place in the AHL with 26 power-play points.
McElhinney was especially sharp during the first period when the Pirates carried play and had better scoring opportunities. They came away frustrated, and it may have carried over into the second period.
Springfield scored one goal early and another late in the second period. Wade MacLeod struck 14 seconds in, and Ryan Johansen scored with 2:36 remaining.
Jake Hansen did most of the work to set up Johansen’s goal. He dug the puck out of the netting in back of the cage, maintained possession and sent a pass out front. Johnson got a piece of the pass, but the puck caromed right to Johansen, who fought off a check and powered a wrist shot into the net for a two-goal lead.
MacLeod converted a pass that banked off the back boards.
“There was no communication between our defenseman and goalie,” Edwards said.
Johansen’s goal came on one of those bounces that just would not go the Pirates’ way during a competitive game between two first-place teams.’
“There just was no awareness, which is a mistake we usually don’t make,” Edwards said.
The Pirates had several chances to open the scoring in the first period. McElhinney robbed Chris Conner from the slot with a pad save just over five minutes into the game, then foiled a short-handed breakaway bid by Rob Klinkhammer.
“We were just a little off tonight,” Edwards said. “It was just one of those games that we’ll go past it and learn from it.”