HARTFORD, Conn. — Your power play needs a boost. Do you overhaul the system? Or do you stick with it?

If you’re the Portland Pirates, you keep going with what has worked, but you make subtle changes designed to put more pucks in the net.

The Pirates continue their best-of-seven AHL Atlantic Division semifinal series with the Connecticut Whale at 7 tonight at the XL Center. High on Portland’s priority list: score with the man-advantage.

In Game 1 Thursday, a 3-2 victory, the Pirates finished 2 for 5 on the power play. In the next two games, they went a combined 0 for 15. That’s 0 for 7 in Saturday’s 3-2 win at the Cumberland County Civic Center and 0 for 8 in Sunday’s 3-1 loss in Hartford.

“Everybody makes adjustments in the game and obviously we’ve got to continue to make better adjustments to try to counteract that,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. “You can talk about that all you want, but it’s simplifying things. Not over-thinking it, and having the right guys and the confident guys on the ice.”

Portland’s power play has been effective. In 80 regular-season games, the Pirates finished 13th among the 30 AHL teams on the power play, scoring 66 goals on 352 man-advantage chances (18.8 percent).


But against the Whale, the unit has been stymied. Trailing 2-1 going into the third period Sunday, the Pirates also couldn’t capitalize on 1:42 of power-play time — arguably the turning point in the game.

“Momentum is so big in games, period, but especially in playoff games,” Pirates right wing Mark Parrish said. “It comes and goes in waves and there’s a lot of emotion and a lot of adrenaline going on, and it’s amazing how quick it can come and go.

“Any time you can get a big penalty kill like that or score a big power-play goal, it gives the whole bench a lift. You can feel the whole energy come back to your side.”

The Pirates have also run into a buzz saw of sorts against the Whale’s penalty killers.

“The (penalty-kill unit) was able to step up and really do everything that they could do in their powers to kind of bail the guy out in the box,” Connecticut goalie Dov Grumet-Morris said. “Every single athlete, at any level in any sport, makes a mistake. It happens. That’s why this is a team sport and your teammates have to help you.”

Conversely, the Whale has gone 2 for 12 on the power play so far in the series: 0 for 4 on Thursday, 1 for 4 Saturday and 1 for 4 Sunday. Connecticut finished 10th in the AHL during the regular season on the power play, going 63 for 327 (19.3 percent.)


Connecticut’s insurance goal – scored by John Mitchell at 9:22 of the third period – was the Whale’s only power-play goal in four chances Sunday.

“Our power play, which I understand has been much maligned, really came through for us (Sunday),” Grummet-Morris said. “They went 1 for 4 Saturday, that’s 25 percent, and that leads any league at any level.

“They came out with a huge power-play goal in the third period (Sunday), and that was the difference in the game.”

Going into Game 4, what do the Pirates have to do to produce something on the power play?

“Keep shooting,” Parrish said. “Keep going to the net. Eventually work for a rebound and find a way to get inside of their guys and bang home the rubber.”


Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: rlenzi@pressherald.com


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