March 11, 2010

Portland pays for lackluster effort


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Staff Photo by Derek Davis: Vladimir Sobotka of Providence plays the puck as Portland's Mark Mancari looks for the referee's call during the 2nd period at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Sunday, April 18, 2009.

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Staff Photo by Derek Davis: Kyle Rank of Portland, left, and Providence's Jordan Knackstedt get into a scuffle during the 2nd period at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Sunday, April 18, 2009.

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — After gaining home-ice advantage in their American Hockey League playoff series against the Providence Bruins during a three-day trip to Rhode Island, the Portland Pirates handed it back the first time they stepped on home ice.

The Bruins dominated almost from start to finish Sunday for a 5-1 victory before a crowd of 3,642 at the Cumberland County Civic Center, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

''We go to Providence and get a split to earn home ice, and to have that kind of effort is embarrassing,'' said Derek Whitmore, who scored a third-period goal for the Pirates. ''It stings a little bit, and it's embarrassing to put forth that effort in front of our fans.''

Game 4 of the Atlantic Division semifinal series is Thursday night at the Civic Center.

''I wish we could go right out tomorrow night and try to redeem ourselves, but we can't,'' Whitmore said. ''But we're professional athletes and we have to prepare and get ready for Thursday night.''

The Pirates played without two of their top defensemen.

Despite skating during warm-ups, Mike Kostka, who had played in every game this season, was not in the lineup. He injured his right leg Friday night at Providence during the second period of Game 2.

Chris Butler, who joined the Pirates last week after spending the previous four months in the NHL playing for the Buffalo Sabres, also was unavailable. He returned to his hometown of St. Louis because of a family emergency.

The absence of those two players might have been a factor, but it wasn't the main reason for the team's poor showing after playing two strong games at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence.

''It was a combination of everything,'' Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. ''The execution wasn't there. The composure wasn't there . I think we were all surprised about the flatness in our team, which is something we haven't seen for a long time.''

Jhonas Enroth, who stopped 66 of 68 shots in Games 1 and 2, made 17 saves in the first period to keep the Pirates in the game for a while. He held the Bruins scoreless until Martin St. Pierre converted Brad Marchand's circle-to-circle pass at 13:18 of the first period, scoring his first goal of the playoffs on a shot from the right faceoff dot.

The Bruins quickly stretched their lead to 4-0 in the second period, as Marchand, Vladimir Sobotka and Johnny Boychuk scored goals less than eight minutes in, prompting Dineen to pull Enroth in favor of Kellen Briggs. Sobotka's goal was short-handed, and Boychuk's goal was on a power play.

''Jhonas wasn't the issue tonight,'' Dineen said. ''He hasn't been an issue for the majority of the games he played. We're a team, and there are a ton of guys, including the coaches, who contributed to us being down a game in the series.''

Boychuk made it 5-0 with another power-play goal two minutes into the third period.

''We just bore down on our chances,'' said Boychuk, the AHL's defenseman of the year. ''When we had chances to score, we finally scored.''

Sobotka finished with a goal and three assists.

NOTES: The Pirates, who scored power-play goals in nine of their last 10 games in the regular season, have failed to score on all 13 of their power plays in the playoffs.

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

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