You probably don’t hear as much about the Portland Pirates as much as you do about the Lehigh Valley Phantoms or the Hershey Bears.
But this team is a divisional rival and the last opponent the Penguins have yet to play this season on the matrix. They are a damn good team as noted in my blog post from early Friday.
The Pirates beat the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins by a score of 2-1 tonight, and could not score more than one goal against veteran Mike McKenna who is playing probably the best hockey of his career. McKenna won his thirteenth straight game and had not allowed more than one goal in now five straight starts.
So the first place Penguins run into a hot team in second place and an even hotter goaltender. Looking at the stats in the newspapers tomorrow, the Penguins went 0-for-3 on the power play and you could say that this cost them the game, but they were a better team at even strength and couldn’t beat McKenna more than once, firing 39 shots at the Portland netminder.
Matt Murray vs. Mike McKenna.
Scott Wilson – Kael Mouillierat – Dominik Simon
Josh Archibald – Carter Rowney – J-S Dea
Dominik Uher – Oskar Sundqvist – Tom Kostopoulos
Tom Sestito – Sahir Gill – Ty Loney
Reid McNeill – Steve Oleksy
Will O’Neill – Clark Seymour
Niclas Andersen – Harrison Ruopp
Matt Murray – Tristan Jarry
Lineup Notes: Sundqvist was back in the lineup from illness for the first time since January 8 … Matia Marcantuoni, Brian Foster and Ryan Parent were the healthy scratches while Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs and Barry Goers were the injury scratches.
First Period: Brett Regner won a board battle with Josh Archibald, floated to the high slot and backhanded a shot at Murray that Brett Olson tipped in for a 1-0 Pirates lead at just 1:57 into the period. The Penguins tried the same thing with Tom Kostopoulos the other way, but McKenna held the Penguins at bay. McKenna looked shaky to start, but settled in for the period.
Wade Megan scored on a seemingly harmless, low angle shot that he fired through a tight window that doubled the Pirates lead. The Penguins seemed to carry the play, but you would never get anyone to buy that statement from you looking at the scoreboard.
Second Period: Clark Seymour made it a one goal game with a blast from the point…
Assists to Will O’Neill and Dominik Uher, who drew the delayed penalty that Seymour scored on. That was Clark’s third goal in nine games with the Penguins and extended Uher’s little point streak to 4-2-6 in his last seven games.
Pens had two consecutive power plays but could not score on either. They continued to roll with chance after chance at McKenna but were unable to solve the Pirates goaltender, who had only allowed just one goal in his last four starts.
Third Period: Wilkes-Barre started the period on a power play but were unable to cash in on the man advantage and were 0-for-3 on the night. Pens then needed to kill a Scott Wilson high sticking penalty and did. Portland nearly made it 3-1 but Murray made this weird save off of a carom of the wall…
Seth mined a gem during the game which was that Murray hasn’t allowed a second or third period goal in his last six, now seven, games.
Pens did all they could, outshooting Portland 12-7 and 39-29 overall, but were not able to solve McKenna at all after nearly getting to him in the first period and finally getting to him in the second.
Three Stars: 3) Matt Murray (27 saves on 29 shots) 2) Wade Megan (goal, +1) and 1) Mike McKenna (38 saves on 39 shots)
Ice Chips: Just the second time all season that Matt Murray lost two games in a row. Also, the first time that the Pirates beat the Penguins in three years. The Pirates power play goal streak was snapped, Portland had scored at least one goal on the man advantage in five straight games coming into tonight but were 0-for-2 Friday.
Around the Division: Well, the Bears got four players back from injury and recall and pounded Binghamton tonight 4-0. They are off now as their game with Lehigh Valley Saturday was postponed to Monday….Providence beats Springfield 4-1, Frank Vatrano had two goals to continue his torrent pace here at the AHL level after his reassignment from Boston…Lehigh Valley, Hartford and Bridgeport were off.
Standings: Penguins (.731 percentage points) — Portland (.645) — Hershey (.607) — Providence (.537) — Hartford (.512) — Bridgeport (.512) — Lehigh Valley (.464) — Springfield (.425)
Wheeling Update: Nailers win in overtime 2-1 over the Kalamazoo Wings, Andrew Cerretani scored the game winner. Casey DeSmith picked up the win.
Pens are back at it again in Portland at the same time, 7 pm, up in Maine. Gameday will hit the blog Saturday at 3.
Let’s Go Pens!