October 29, 2012

Pirates done in by slow start

By FRAN SYPEK Special to the Press Herald

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Nothing went right during the first period Sunday for the Portland Pirates.

Using speed, mostly from players in the American Hockey League because of the NHL lockout, the Springfield Falcons overwhelmed the Pirates during a three-goal first period that carried them to a 3-2 victory before 2,187 at the MassMutual Center.

"How long is the game?" Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. "We knew they were a quick starting team and we got right behind the eight ball by taking penalties.

"That team's too good to get down 3-0, and it took us until then before we started playing."

Rookie goalie Mark Visentin (38 saves) didn't get a lot of early support from his teammates, who let Springfield dictate the tempo of the game at the outset. The Falcons outshot the Pirates, 19-4 during the opening period and 41-28 for the game.

Springfield scored on the power play, while short-handed, and at even strength.

The Pirates had already allowed six short-handed goals -- the most in the AHL.

"We've still got a lot to learn," Edwards said. "The one thing I liked was we kept fighting right until the end. The game could have gotten out of hand, but we made it a game."

Although he wasn't tested much during the opening period, Curtis McElhinney frustrated his former teammates with a strong performance. He stopped 26 shots to improve to 5-1.

Andrew Joudrey scored what turned out to be the key goal. Springfield was nursing a 1-0 lead when the Pirates went on a power play, hoping to even the score.

Instead, they fell behind by two goals after Cody Bass broke up a play in the neutral zone and sent a pass ahead to Joudrey. Joudrey rocketed a 35-foot slap shot past Visentin with 3:09 left in the period to provide Springfield with a 2-0 edge.

"Those short-handed goals are killing us," Edwards said.

The Pirates fell into a 3-0 hole when Ryan Johansen struck with 38 seconds remaining in the period.

The Pirates were a much better team during the second period. They went on the attack more, drew penalties and got on the scoreboard thanks to a power-play goal by Michael Stone, who capitalized on a two-man advantage and sent a 40-foot slap shot past McElhinney.

The Pirates continued to apply pressure and pulled to within 3-2 with 4:49 remaining in the second period, as Ethan Werek scored on a wraparound from behind the net.

"We just stuck to our game plan and kept working," Pirates forward Scott Arnold said. "We just need to work on our consistency."

Just as the Pirates got better, so did Visentin.

"I thought he kept us in the game," Edwards said.

The Pirates nearly pulled even during the final period, but Andy Miele and Werek missed good chances from close range.


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