Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Fran Sypek
Special to the Telegram
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Mike McKenna may be five seasons removed from playing for the Portland Pirates, yet the veteran goalie continues to haunt his former team.
McKenna stopped 26 shots Saturday night for his 13th career American Hockey League shutout as the Springfield Falcons beat the struggling Pirates 3-0 – Portland’s third straight loss, which drops them under .500 (7-8-1-2).
“We’re a young team and we have a lot of work to do,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “We’ll work at getting better.”
It didn’t help that the Pirates have a depleted lineup that is missing five players.
“Our execution wasn’t great but that’s a good hockey team we played,” Edwards said. “I didn’t mind our effort but we know we will have to play better.”
McKenna, who leads the AHL in save percentage and goals- against average, teams with Jeremy Smith to form what may arguably be the league’s best goalie tandem.
“Yes, the shutout was nice but the team blocked a lot of shots,” said McKenna.
“Portland has changed affiliations two or three times since I was there. Now that they’re playing in Lewiston, it’s kind of lost its luster, which is a shame because I loved Portland.”
Spencer Machacek scored twice for the Falcons, including an unassisted empty-net goal with 1:17 remaining after the Pirates pulled Mark Visentin in a desperate attempt to get on the board.
The Pirates came out with energy and tried to play a smart road game.
It was working until they started taking a rash of penalties.
“We just didn’t play fast enough,’’ Edwards said. “When you aren’t playing fast enough, it usually means you are taking penalties.”
The Pirates put the Falcons on three first-period power plays and though no goals were scored, Portland wasted much energy negating Springfield’s man-advantages.
Dalton Smith scored shortly after the Pirates killed a minor to Andy Miele.
Machacek redirected a shot past Visentin at 6:18 of the second period and iced the game with his empty-netter.
The Pirates, who came into the game with the league’s fifth best penalty kill percentage (87.3), foiled all six Falcons power plays.
GILBERT BRULE has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, and must clear waivers before being reassigned to the Portland Pirates.
Brule has played in eight games for the Pirates this season with six goals and two assists.
He has played in 296 regular- season NHL games in parts of seven seasons with Columbus, Edmonton and Phoenix.