After a leonine performance for much of March, the Portland Pirates finished the month with a bit of a bleat.

You know, the whole lion-lamb thing.

Colin Stuart scored twice to lead the visiting Providence Bruins to a 5-2 American Hockey League victory over the Pirates before a crowd of 4,172 Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

The loss dropped the Pirates from fifth to seventh in the AHL Eastern Conference playoff race, as both Providence and Hartford – a 3-2 overtime winner against Springfield – moved ahead of Portland.

“We were really flat,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “We looked like we were a tired group.”

Playing six games in nine days this late in the season can do that to a team. The silver lining for the Pirates is their performance the rest of the month. They went 8-2-2 in March and have earned at least one point in all but two of their past 14 games.


Nine games remain in April before the end of the regular season. Eight teams from the East qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs.

“I’m exhausted,” Edwards said. “Usually, if a coach is tired, the players are three times as tired. Again, that’s not an excuse. We have to be better. But our team has battled hard over this month and a couple days off will be good for us.”

The Pirates scored first, but the lead was short-lived.

After holding the Bruins without a shot during a successful penalty kill, the Pirates caught Providence netminder Jeremy Smith out of position while trying to corral a puck rimming around the boards.

Near the edge of his trapezoid, Smith failed to control the puck with Portland’s Brendan Shinnimin, fresh out of the penalty box, bearing down on him. Shinnimin gained control and fed a streaking Eric Selleck in the slot before Smith could scramble back to defend his net.

“That was a big goal for us at the time,” said Portland defenseman Dylan Reece, also credited with an assist on the play. “We just weren’t able to build any momentum.”


Indeed, the Bruins tied it up three minutes later when Paul Carey spun away from a bunch-up near the right point, found the slot open and tallied his 15th goal of the season.

Providence pulled away with three goals in a little more than six minutes early in the second period. Stuart scored the first two and Andrew Cherniwchan made it 4-1.

A backhanded goal by Lucas Lessio with just under seven minutes left in the third cut the margin to 4-2, but Providence’s Rob Flick scored with two minutes remaining after the Pirates pulled their goalie in favor of an extra skater.

“We’re in a good spot, still,” Reece said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think these two points makes or breaks you. You never want to lose games, but because we’ve been playing so well the last month, it gives us a little leeway for games like this.”

Whereas the Pirates took a two-game winning streak into Saturday’s game, the Bruins had lost two in a row, including a 5-0 setback Friday night in Hartford.

“We talked about their urgency,” Edwards said. “We tried to have that second gear but it was like you’re pressing the gear and there’s no gas. And when there’s no gas, you’ve got to get some gas. So we’ve got to fill up this week.”

NOTES: When the Pirates score at least three goals, they have yet to lose in regulation. They have 29 victories and one overtime loss, a 4-3 decision last Saturday night to Hershey.


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