HARTFORD, Conn – The Portland Pirates made their final appearance at the XL Center for the 2012-2013 regular season Tuesday night, beating the Connecticut Whale 4-3 in a shootout after giving up a late game-tying goal to the Whale’s Brandon Segal. Chris Kreider scored in the first and second periods to keep Connecticut alive after a shaky start.
Head coach Ken Gernander said after the game, “The first (period) wasn’t what it should have been and we lost a point on Portland in the standings, but the team took it upon themselves to right the ship. There was a lot of penalty trouble in the first, enough said there. Kreider is coming, he’s finding his game. (Brandon) Segal, all our big goals, he’s involved and it’s good to see Nick Palmieri contribute on a big one too. Six teams are separated by nine points; all points are critical.”
At 5:59 of the first period, Sean Collins took an interference minor right in front of the scorekeeper’s box. On the ensuing power play, Chris Conner broke in to the zone for a dead angle try on Whale starting netminder Cam Talbot. The puck popped up and was delivered by Alexandre Bolduc to Brandon Gormley at the point. Gormley let one go to the glove side with Chris Brown, recently returned to Portland from parent club Phoenix Coyotes, screening Talbot. Gormley’s fifth goal came 20 seconds into the man advantage.
Connecticut’s Kelsey Tessier was upended on the blueline by Evan Brophey pursuing a loose puck 47 seconds later, and the Whale power play was unsuccessful, as Logan Pyett wired the puck in to the zone and chopped at the leg of a nearby Pirate. Palmieri got locked up with the Pirate goaltender, former Whale Chad Johnson, playing the puck, which resulted in 34 seconds of four on three time.
Talbot came up with a big save right off the draw on a Bolduc-Brown connection, and Collins was timely with a blocked shot, as Gormley came on after Brophey’s release. Connecticut survived the five on three time, but at 10:01, Brown notched another power play goal as Andy Miele fed a pass down the left wall and Brown’s hard pass to the slot redirected in off Talbot’s right skate.
Andrew Carroll and Boris Valabik dropped the gloves to shake things up with 6:41 left, and Connecticut got on the board less than a minute after that. With Valabik serving extra time for roughing, Kris Newbury gave a pass to Pyett, who scored a game-winner in overtime at Bridgeport on Sunday. Pyett’s slap pass was an easy backdoor putaway for Kreider, who was in good position, for his eighth of the year in a Whale uniform.
Sam Klassen drew blood and earned a double minor for high sticking with 38 seconds left, and Conner capitalized with 0.9 seconds on the clock. With a 3-1 lead and a 13-5 shot advantage, Portland would force Jason Missiaen to come in relief of Talbot starting the second. Segal said afterwards, “We had a slow start with penalty trouble, no momentum going our way, but we fought back and got one point; nicer to have gotten two there. But we took the puck in deep and cycled, we just have to keep playing for 60, and we’re going to be well off in the end.”
The Whale killed the back-half of Klassen’s double minor and found some momentum with another Valabik infraction; this time for hooking. Portland killed the penalty, but two seconds after Valabik was back out, Kreider bagged his second of the night. Pyett gave an outlet to Segal, who got good puck support from Newbury breaking in. Newbury’s feed found Kreider in front, and the Boston College product one-timed it home to cut the deficit in half. Connecticut put Johnson to the test 18 times in the second period. “I think we’re happy with the effort, it’s nice to get one point battling back like that but still disappointing”, said Kreider.
In the third, a Brendan Shinnimin hooking penalty gave the Whale power play a chance to apply pressure. Dylan McIlrath was called for tripping not long after, but came out of the box and set up a play that allowed Kyle Jean to draw a penalty on Jordan Martinook at the crease.
Christian Thomas pulled the trigger on three one-timer tries during the five on four; the first one wide, the second off the pipe, and the third in to the crest of Johnson sliding into good position. Jordan Szwarz beat Missiaen but hit the pipe with 70 seconds left in regulation, allowing the 22-year-old Chatham, Ontario product to get to the bench with 45 seconds remaining. At last, with 23 seconds to go in regulation, Collins steered the puck to Nick Palmieri at the top of the right circle. Palmieri’s shot deflected off of Segal and in to tie it up. Segal said of the goal, “Colls [Collins] made a good play not to panic there, Palms [Palmieri] got it in first, it kinda just hit off me.”
After five minutes of overtime, Segal and Brandon Mashinter gave the Whale a chance to win in the shootout, but Johnson came up with a few key saves to seal the win. Johnson finished with 33 saves on the night, while Talbot stopped 10 of 13 in the first period and Missiaen was perfect in nearly 45 minutes. Missiaen turned away three of six in the shootout as Portland took the 4-3 victory.