January 4, 2013

Long-ago Pirate nets winner for Bruins

At 35, hockey journeyman Trent Whitfield scores his first goal of the season after missing 24 games.

By MIKE SCANDURA Special to The Press Herald

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- In all or part of seven seasons with the Portland Pirates, Trent Whitfield scored 102 goals.

SATURDAY'S GAME

WHO: Bridgeport Sound Tigers (17-13-1-2, second in AHL’s Northeast Division) at Portland Pirates (19-12-1-1, first in AHL’s Atlantic Division)

WHEN: 7 p.m.

WHERE: Cumberland County Civic Center

TELEVISION: TWCTV

RADIO: WPEI (95.5 and 95.9 FM), WOXO (92.7 and 100.7 FM)

SOUND TIGERS NOTES: Before losing 5-4 at Springfield on Friday night, the Sound Tigers had earned points in nine of their last 10 games. Anders Nilsson made 25 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Pirates on Dec. 11 at the Civic Center. In that game, Nino Niederreith, a 20-year-old left wing who leads the Sound Tigers in scoring, scored a goal.

PIRATES NOTES: Before losing 3-2 at Providence on Friday night, the Pirates had won nine of their last 10 games. Defenseman David Rundblad scored 3:10 into overtime to lift the Pirates to their first win against Bridgeport. In his last four games, goalie Mark Visentin has compiled a 1.00 goals-against average and a .967 saves percentage.

– Paul Betit

Now a Providence Bruin who was sidelined for 24 of his team's first 30 games, the veteran center showed he still has some gas left in the proverbial tank when he scored with 4:19 left to break a tie and give his team a 3-2 victory Friday night.

The 35-year-old Whitfield spun around during a scramble in front of the net and jammed the puck past Chad Johnson (27 saves) for his first goal of the season.

"He's a great player and he's a great leader," Portland Coach Ray Edwards said after his team had its three-game winning streak snapped.

"They have a lot of depth on that team and just having him back obviously is a big lift for those guys."

The lift Whitfield gave Providence was obvious from the opening faceoff.

"They're a good hockey club," Edwards said. "They played hard. There aren't many inches out there. Give them credit. They played a good, solid game tonight and found a way to win."

Another reason the Bruins won was after coughing up two early power-play goals, they were 7 of 7 on the penalty kill.

"We were alert on our first two power plays," Portland center Brendan Shinnimin said. "We were getting quick shots from the point with traffic in front. Then we kind of veered away from it. Maybe we got a little too confident and tried to make more plays.

"We need to stick to getting the puck to the net and we kind of got away from it."

Portland violated one of hockey's cardinal rules by allowing a goal in the first minute of a period -- in this case 36 seconds after the opening faceoff when Chris Bourque buried a rebound.

"Losing draws right off the opening faceoff of a power play is crucial," Shinnimin said. "We started losing some draws and that kills 30 seconds right away.

"As a power-play unit, you're looked upon to get the job done. We did it for the first two but we needed to find a way to get it done the rest of the way."

The Pirates, who began play ranked 12th on the power play, countered with two goals while skating with a man advantage.

Alexandre Bolduc tipped in a Chris Brown pass just 21 seconds after Bourque's goal, and Shinnimin then made the score 2-1 at 7:03 when he deflected a Michael Stone pass past Niklas Svedberg (31 saves).

Portland maintained that lead until the teams were skating four-on-four and Matt Bartkowski stuffed home a Bourque rebound at 16:43.

Edwards, like Shinnimin, was critical of Portland's performance with a man advantage. In fact, during one stretch of four consecutive power plays, Portland managed only one shot.

"We got a little bit cutesy," Edwards said. "We tried some different personnel. We tried a different breakout to try to mix it up.

"But give them credit again. They pressured us and we got into a situation where we turned over pucks. They got a lot of momentum from their kill at the end."

 

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