ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — Despite playing what Coach Ray Edwards called their best game in three on a Newfoundland road trip, the Portland Pirates still dropped a 4-2 decision to the St. John’s IceCaps on Tuesday night, giving them one win and two losses in three nights in Atlantic Canada.
Down 3-2 with goaltender Louis Domingue pulled for an extra skater, the Pirates pressured IceCaps netminder Eddie Pasquale, who came up with several unlikely stops to bring the fans to their feet before teammate Carl Klingberg scored into an empty net – his second goal of the evening – to seal the victory.
Edwards still found a bright side.
“Tonight was the best game we’ve played of the three games,” he said. “We played our system five strong. Give credit to Eddie (Pasquale), he kept them in it.”
For the second consecutive night, the Pirates scored first, with Lucas Lessio potting his 10th of the year in the opening period.
But the IceCaps sustained pressure in the final minute of the period and it paid off as defenseman Ben Chiarot found the back of the net with a wrist shot from the point that bounced off the post and behind Domingue with all of 5.9 seconds left – discouraging, to say the least, to the Pirates, who held a 16-9 advantage in shots.
The IceCaps turned the table in the second period, jumping ahead near the halfway point when Klingberg deflected a John Albert shot behind Domingue.
The IceCaps pushed their lead to 3-1 early in the second period. Albert worked hard in the offensive zone to keep the play alive before captain Jason Jaffray found Andrew Gordon alone in front, and he chipped the puck over Domingue.
With 13:26 left in the third period, Portland cut the lead to one as forward Tobias Rieder deflected Brett Hextall’s shot behind Pasquale for his second goal of the series.
The Pirates kept pressing but Pasquale was equal to the task, and the late empty-netter wrapped up the win for the home team.
Pasquale turned in another solid performance, stopping 28 of 30 shots while Domingue chalked up 30 saves.
Both teams performed admirably on the penalty kill as neither team scored a power play goal on three chances apiece.
Coming off the three games in three nights in St. John’s, the Pirates will enjoy a short two-day break before embarking on another grueling three-in-three situation.
The Pirates will be in Lewiston to face the Norfolk Admirals on Friday evening and then hit the road for a game in Bridgeport, Conn., against the Sound Tigers on Saturday night before playing a matinee in Worcester, Mass., against the Sharks on Sunday.
Edwards is none too pleased with having to play consecutive back-to-back-to-back series but he knows there’s not much he or his team can do.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “But that’s life in the American Hockey League.”