Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Special to the Telegram
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Another key member of the team left for Buffalo.
The desperate opposition brought in a goalie from the NHL to face them.
Yet the Portland Pirates were undaunted and used a four-goal second period to pull away for 7-1 triumph over the struggling Springfield Falcons on Saturday night before a crowd of 2,913 at the MassMutual Center.
The Pirates remain one of the league's hottest teams, even without Mark Mancari, who was called up Saturday by the Buffalo Sabres. The Pirates have collected at last one point in 14 of their last 15 games, going 9-1-3-2 during that span.
''The key for us is we've really gotten contributions throughout our lineup,'' Coach Kevin Dineen said. ''When we have success, we're not always relying on our scorers.''
The Pirates are 28th in the American Hockey League in penalty killing, but they got a huge short-handed goal early in the game from unheralded Kyle Rank, who scored three goals and set up another.
''We're all happy for him,'' Dineen said. ''He has a heavy shot, and when you find confidence and start shooting the puck more, good things happen.''
Rank, who went into the game with two goals, completed his hat trick with an unassisted goal with 31.4 seconds remaining.
''My last hat trick was probably 10 years ago when I was playing juniors for Elmira,'' Rank said. ''We just kept things simple and kept working hard.''
The Pirates also got a pair of power-play goals from Derek Whitmore and another from Jeff Cowan.
All that came at the expense of Springfield goalie Devan Dubnyk, who rejoined the Falcons for one game. He has been in Edmonton since Nov. 25 -- the last time the Falcons won a game -- because of Nikolai Khabibulin's back injury.
Springfield has lost its last nine games.
The Pirates took a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Springfield got one back at 2:20 of the second period on a power play, as Bill Thomas ripped a shot from the right circle past Jhonas Enroth (31 saves).
But it took Whitmore only 22 seconds to answer with his second goal. Kyle Wanvig intercepted a clearing pass in the corner and sent the puck out front for Whitmore, who one-timed a shot past Dubnyk.
Rank made it 4-1 at 7:16. He slipped behind the defense, took a lead pass from Drew Schiestel and snapped a high shot past Dubnyk.
Springfield's meltdown continued when Wanvig scored midway through the period. Cowan then struck on the power play with 1:24 left as the Pirates extended their lead to 6-1.
''We were really moving our feet in the second period,'' Dineen said. ''We were in good defensive position and it seemed like we were always over the top of the puck.''