Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Special to the Telegram
LOWELL, Mass. — Slowly but surely, all the pieces of the puzzle may be coming together for the Portland Pirates.
After Saturday night's 4-1 victory against the Lowell Devils, the Pirates:
nHave earned points in their last eight games.
nAre 6-2-3-0 in their last 11 games.
nMore closely resemble the team Coach Kevin Dineen expected to have before it was decimated by injuries.
Also noteworthy was that this win followed a 4-3 overtime loss at Hartford.
''You know what, we played a good game in Hartford,'' said Dineen. ''We weren't happy with the outcome and the last few minutes of the game, but we played a good game there. I thought we followed through and played six good periods in a row on the road.
''It's a good start for us but we still have work to do.''
The work Dineen alluded to may be easier to handle with the return of forwards Brad Larsen (who missed 18 games with a broken left foot) and Cody McCormick.
''We missed Larsen and we missed McCormick because of injury and a suspension at the beginning of the year,'' Dineen said. ''They're a big part of our lineup. We put our team together last summer and those guys are a big part of what we're trying to accomplish.
''Without them in the lineup, it created holes. It also created opportunities for a lot of young guys to play, but now you have to earn your place in the lineup.''
One of the Pirates who took a step in that direction was Jhonas Enroth, who made 30 saves while earning only his fifth win in 13 decisions.
''He's been waiting professionally and that was a very solid game by him,'' Dineen said. ''That's what good pros do. You're off your game and you have time to work on it.
''You don't sulk. You try to make yourself better and that's what he did.''
Lowell, meanwhile, violated one of hockey's cardinal rules -- not once, but twice -- by allowing a goal in the first minute of a period.
Portland was on a power play in the first when Jeff Cowan stuffed home the rebound of a Tyler Ennis shot after 59 seconds.
Then, one minute into the second period, Marc Andre-Gragnani scooped up a puck in the neutral zone and fed Matt Caruana, whose slap shot from just inside the blue line eluded Mike McKenna.
Larsen made it 3-0 at 11:21 when he snapped a shot that clanged in off the crossbar.
Lowell scored at 17:04 of the second on Nick Palmieri's power-play goal, but McCormick answered into an empty net with 54 seconds left in the game.