ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — Momentum swings came back to haunt the Portland Pirates again on Saturday night in a 3-2 loss to the St. John’s IceCaps.
Ahead 2-1 going into the third period, thanks to good defense and goaltending, the Pirates let it slip away – again.
Just 4:58 into the third period, the IceCaps tied the game as Portland goaltender Mark Visentin let out a huge rebound on a Kyle Mackinnon shot and Carl Klingberg one-timed a slapper from the slot.
Then with just under seven minutes to play, Josh Lunden took the wind out of the Pirates’ sails with a backhander from the slot, and the IceCaps had their second win of the three-game series.
It was enough to have Portland Coach Ray Edwards admitting the mood in the dressing room was heavy after yet another potential win slipped out of grasp.
“This was a game we thought we were going to win,” Edwards said. “It was a way better game from us. It was a tighter checking game and more of what you want to see. Obviously you don’t want to give up a lead in the third period but I liked what we did overall. We played better but closing games out has been a problem for us. That’s what’s disappointing.”
The IceCaps opened the scoring near the midway point of the first period as Jerome Samson patiently swung behind the net and laid a tape-to-tape pass on Andrew Gordon’s stick and he made no mistake, beating Visentin at 11:36.
Brandon Yip tied the game in the second period as he took a goalmouth pass from Lucas Lessio, performed a tight spin in front of the net and flipped the puck behind Tyler Beskorowany at 7:37.
Just over one minute later, Jordan Szwarz parked himself in front of the net and executed a perfect deflection on a point shot from Mathieu Brodeur to give the Pirates the lead as the momentum shifted in their favor – but not for good.
Much of the reason was Beskorowany, who turned in a solid performance in his first home start, stopping 29 shots.
But despite dropping two of three at The Rock, Edwards found some positives in the fact that his Pirates at least played close games against one of the hottest teams in the American Hockey League.
“We just have to keep stressing the positives and keep teaching,” he said.
“It’s easy to get frustrated and start hammering guys and being negative. I don’t think that helps us at this point. We’re trying to develop young players and as much as it’s frustrating for everybody, that’s not the way to go. Hopefully we can get through some of these mental hurdles.”
A trip to the Calder Cup playoffs seems unlikely for the Pirates who sit 14th in the Eastern Conference.
“Right now, we’re just taking it game to game and trying to win every game and learn how to win and play the right way,” Edwards said.
“We still have some players that have the ability to play in the NHL this year and we have to have this group ready to play in case someone in this group gets called upon. We’re a prideful group and we want to continue to get better. As much as the playoffs are a distant thought, we still have a million reasons to play.”