Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By MIKE SCANDURA Special to the Press Herald
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Maybe it wasn’t the seventh game of the Calder Cup finals, but the Portland Pirates’ 5-1 victory Friday over the Providence Bruins might have been just as significant.
TODAY: Pirates at Adirondack Phantoms,7 p.m.
SUNDAY: Pirates at Manchester Monrachs, 3 p.m.
Portland skated into The Dunkin’ Donuts Center shouldering a three-game losing streak and with a 1-5-0-1 record during their last seven games – a skid during which they were outscored 28-17.
In addition, Portland was still without injured forwards Travis Turnbull and Mark Parrish, while leading scorer Mark Mancari and promising rookie Luke Adam are on recall to Buffalo.
That’s a total of 28 goals and 36 assists missing from Portland’s lineup.
Newly signed Maxime Legault picked up the slack, scoring two goals for Portland.
“I think always when your team has faltered off and on it’s important to realize there are some areas they need to pick up on – specifically the work ethic,” Coach Kevin Dineen said. “I thought they really addressed it themselves.
“That’s a credit to our bunch and a good sign that they understand when you’re getting outplayed, when you push back and that doesn’t mean just physically, you try to push back and keep the pressure on, things can turn in your favor.”
Arguably the goal that turned things in Portland’s favor was an unassisted score by Jacob Legace at 7:48 of the second period which gave his team a 2-1 lead.
Legace blocked a shot at Portland’s blue line.
Then he hustled after the puck, zoomed down the right wing and beat Michael Hutchinson with a slapper from the circle.
“That’s a goal that we’ve been trying to convince him that if he shoots the puck, good things will happen,” Dineen said. “That’s a good confidence builder for him. Getting in the shot lane is important and then getting your feet going. You’re not going to be on a breakaway, so shoot the puck and good things will follow.”
Perhaps the only bad thing Portland did was spot the opponent the lead, as has been the case during its seven-game slide.
Jordan Smotherman scored when he jammed a backhander by Jhonas Enroth at 5:27 of the first.
Enroth more than made up for allowing that goal by making 31 saves including a deflection on a breakaway by Juraji Simek shortly before Legace’s score.
“He made a heck of a play,” Dineen said of the save on Simek.
“He had an extremely solid game. That’s what we need to have success.
“From our goalies to our ‘D’ to our forwards, we’re at our best when we’re playing as a unit.”
Portland tied the game 1-1 when Legault scored the first of his two goals at 3:08 of the second when he deflected in a T.J. Brennan slap shot.
Drew Schiestel made it 3-1 heading into intermission when he beat a screened Hutchinson.
Matt Ellis put the game out of reach at 12:14 of the third when he emulated Legault by deflecting in another Brennan slap shot. And Legault applied the capper 13 seconds after Ellis scored.
NOTES: The Pirates signed rookie forward Legault, 21, to an AHL standard player’s contract. He was originally signed to a professional tryout contract. ...
In another roster move, Portland signed forward Justin Bowers to a professional tryout contract. In 23 games with the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors, Bowers, 25, has nine goals and 16 assists. ... Portland rookie defenseman Alex Biega filed his first blog Friday. Alex On Ice can be found at www.pressherald.com/blogs/portland_pirates_hockey.