March 12, 2010

Pirates throw away a victory

PAUL BETIT

— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The Hershey Bears scored two goals in the final 1:27 to rally to a 5-4 victory against the Portland Pirates on Saturday night.

The Pirates, fresh off a 3-1 loss to Atlantic Division leader Hartford on Friday night, were unable to hold a three-goal lead.

Staffan Kronwall tipped in a shot with 39 seconds left to lift the Bears to the victory before a near-capacity crowd of 6,605 fans at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

''We got down on our heels, and it came back and bit us,'' Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said.

''We got outworked (Friday night) for great stretches in all three periods. Tonight, I thought we had a strong work ethic, but our confidence level wasn't very high and that was pretty indicative of the way the third period played out.''

Alexandre Giroux, the AHL's leading scorer, put in his 48th and 49th goals of the season in the third period to make it 4-4. Then Kronwall tipped in a Giroux shot for his eighth goal to win it.

''We were playing a very strong hockey team with some highly skilled players,'' Dineen said. The Bears lead the AHL with 261 goals in 69 games.

''We have to respect them and I think we maybe gave them too much respect. We gave them a lot of opportunities, based on our play, which was cautious defensively.''

With the loss, the Pirates remained in a tie with idle Manchester for third place in the Atlantic Division.

The Pirates opened up a 3-1 lead in the first period.

Hershey's Oskar Osala, a rookie forward from Finland, opened the scoring by slipping a wrap-around shot into the right side for his 22nd goal after less than three minutes into the game.

At 7:21, Mark Mancari scored his team-high 27th goal on a breakaway to tie the score.

A little more than six minutes later, Portland took the lead on Marek Zagrapan's 17th goal. It was set up by Mancari's pass from the far side of the left circle to the front of the crease.

With 4:29 left in the period, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani scored his seventh goal on a shot from just inside the right circle while the Pirates skated with a two-man advantage.

Less than four minutes into the second period, Felix Schutz made it 4-1 with his 13th goal of the season.

But the Bears didn't quit. In fact, they stepped it up.

Hershey held a 32-14 edge in shots during the last two periods.

''At the end of the second (period), we gave them a little bit of momentum by not chipping pucks in deep,'' Portland captain Tyler Bouck said. ''It just comes down to playing intelligent hockey. I don't think we let up as much as we did in other games. It comes down to costly turnovers, and times in the game where we're not sharp.''

With 3:18 left in the second period, Kyle Wilson finished off a rush with a shot from inside the right circle for his 25th goal to make it 4-2. But the Pirates couldn't hold on to the lead.

''It's mind-boggling,'' Bouck said. ''It's very frustrating and I have no answers. It's just a tough, tough loss. It's unbelievable.''

NOTES: Former University of Maine defenseman Matt Duffy began his pro career in the ECHL on Friday night, suiting up for the Florida Everblades in a game against the Charlotte Checkers in North Carolina. Duffy, who grew up in Windham, is expected to report to the AHL's Rochester Americans following another game against the Checkers this afternoon. An upper-body injury kept center Dylan Hunter out of the Portland lineup for the second consecutive game. The Bears played without forward Chris Bourque, a former Pirate who was recalled earlier in the day by Hershey's parent team, the Washington Capitals.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com

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