SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — With nothing left to play for but pride in the waning nights of the American Hockey League’s regular season, the Portland Pirates showed they still have plenty of that.
Especially goaltender Louis Domingue.
Domingue stopped two penalty shots, both during the second period, but the Pirates still dropped a 5-2 decision to the Springfield Falcons.
Again, inconsistent play and the mistakes that have plagued the Pirates (24-37-3-8) all season turned the tide in favor of the Falcons.
But down 3-2 in the third period, Andy Miele nearly tied the game with 7:23 remaining, breaking in alone but being frustrated by a right pad save by a sprawling goaltender Anton Forsberg.
“Going into the third period, I thought we had three or four good opportunities to tie the game up,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said.
“Our execution just wasn’t there.”
Late goals by Carter Camper and Dana Tyrell, the latter an empty-netter in the waning moments, iced the game for the Falcons, who actually were outshot, 29-28.
The evening got off to a bad start for Portland, giving up a goal just 11 seconds after the opening faceoff to defenseman Cody Goloubef.
Portland seemed to take control after the ominous beginning, getting the equalizer on an unassisted effort by Ethan Werek and taking the lead when Tim Kennedy deflected a Werek blast during a power play.
Momentum quickly shifted during the second period, however, despite those two big saves by Domingue, who within a four-minute span blocked efforts by Paul Thompson and Marko Dano following penalty-shot calls that seemed questionable.
“He made some big saves all night and kept us in the game,” Edwards said of Domingue, who finished with 23 saves.
But not enough as the Falcons took control, scoring the only two goals of the second period to take a 3-2 lead.
The goals, by Dano and Patrick McNeill, came on the power play.
McNeill broke a 2-2 deadlock when he one-timed a pass from Camper past Domingue with 1:21 remaining in the second period. Dano, a 19-year-old rookie from Slovakia, connected at 6:15 after being set up by Jean-Francois Jacques.
“We took some bad penalties in the second period,” Edwards said. “We lost our composure.”
And, of course, another game.
The Pirates, who are out of playoff contention, have lost their last six games (0-5-1-0). They finished 1-5 against the Falcons (45-21-1-5), the Columbus Blue Jackets’ top affiliate and the AHL’s Northeast Division champions.
Springfield outscored Portland 26-13 in the six meetings and heads into the playoffs as a solid contender.
Still, Edwards found reason for optimism as the season winds down without any postseason possibilities.
“These guys will never quit – they’re good kids,” he said. “They played hard but somehow we just found a way to lose tonight.
“They’re working hard. You’ve got to have pride and do the right things.”