(Hear all interviews below)
It’s now a best of three series starting Thursday night in Portland as a critical Game Four in Hartford goes to the Connecticut Whale who came out to right from the drop of the opening puck and dominated from start-to-finish beating the Portland Pirates 3-1 in front of 2,581 at the XL Center Tuesday night.
The Whale were clearly rejuvenated from the additions of Mats Zuccarello, who was returned to the Whale from the New York Rangers Monday and Chad Kolarik, back after missing 17 consecutive games and 26 out of 28 games with a hamstring injury. Both forwards added much needed speed and skill to the top lines and each contributed with a goal and an assist in the contest. The Whale also got a breakaway goal from John Mitchell in the second period accounting for all of the home team’s scoring.
Right from the outset the Whale came out and took the game right to the Pirates and played most of the first period in the Portland zone. The offensive pressure forced the Pirates into taking a plethora of reaching penalties. The Pirates took four consecutive penalties including giving the Whale a 1:12 5-on-3 power play that cost them…and for that matter, the Whale, dearly.
Corey Tropp took his second penalty of the period at 14:34 on a tripping call. 26 seconds later, Rookie-of-the-Year Luke Adam blatantly boarded right wing Dale Weise into the left side half boards. Weise struggled mightily just to get up and looked to be in considerable pain as he got to the bench. Chad Kolarik went over the boards and came on the ice.
At 15:22, the referees, who did the AHL no favors in considering going to a two referee system by missing the Weise hit, saw Adam take a just-as-obvious tripping call. The Whale then had a two-man advantage for 1:12.
After missing a wide open shot in front 28 seconds into the two-man up power play, Kolarik shook off the rust and didn’t miss the second time. Kolarik, who came to the Whale from Springfield in a trade on November 11th for then captain Dane Byers, took a feed from Jeremy Williams and buried it on the short side from just inside the left circle over David Leggio’s (2-2-0, 27 saves) blocker.
The second period was a special teams affair as referees Chris Ciamaga and Ian Croft made up for the differential in penalties from the first period and gave the Pirates their fair share of chances.
After killing off the remaining 53 seconds of Pavel Valentenko’s interference call to end the first, the Whale had an Evgeny Grachev Interference to deal with at 1:52. As you might imagine, 50 seconds later a bench minor for Too Many Men was called and the Whale had to deal with a, wait for it, 1:10 of 5-on-3.
The penalty killers were exceptional and Dov Grumet-Morris (2-2-0, 19 saves)had little to do over either penalty.
Just as the second power play was expiring, Grachev took the puck away from Nick Crawford at the Whale blueline. The second year Russian forward made a smart decision to advance the puck quickly up to John Mitchell streaking up the middle. Mitchell made a fake with the puck to the right that Leggio bit on and then the veteran forward drew it back to the left and easily tucked it into the net at 4:45 for a 2-0 lead.
Ciamaga and Croft were blowing the whistle over the rest of the period more than Clarence Clemmons on a “Jungleland” solo.
They called Matt Ellis of Portland for an Interference call at 10:43 and then tagged Zuccarello for a retaliatory slash on Paul Byron at 11:05 which created a 1:38 4-on-4.
Grachev then took a really foolish elbowing call that created first a 4-on-3 of 34 seconds and a 5-on-3 of 22. The Whale killed off both fairly easily with Grumet-Morris only needing to make a good stop on T.J. Brennan in close at 13:08.
But the refs weren’t through yet.
They called rookie Tommy Grant for a roughing call after he went after Corey Fienhage for having hooked him at 16:41.
Brennan needed to be helped off the ice after getting into a knee on knee collision with one of the Whale players.
Leggio made a couple of strong saves denying both recent signee Carl Hagelin, who had another strong performance in his third professional game, and rookie defenseman Blake Parlett with 2:05 left in the frame.
In the third period, the Whale returned to their strong forecheck and continued to push the Pirates back into their own end.
The pressure paid off as Zuccarello scored his first goal since scoring twice for the New York Rangers against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 6th and in his last six games with the Whale dating back to Dec. 15 against Adirondack.
Kolarik had the puck in the offensive zone along the right half-boards. Colin Stuart and Fienhage collided creating a lane. Kolarik moved around them and saw “The Norwegian Hobbit” all alone on the left side of the crease. Kolarik fired the puck just past Brennan, who’d returned for the third period, and Zuccarello simply redirected the puck into the empty net on that side.
But the referees did all they could to keep the game interesting giving the Whale the game’s fourth 5-on-3 when he tagged Alex Biega for a tripping call at 6:16 and then Tim Conboy for a roughing call 44 seconds later. The Whale’s best chance, after moving the puck nicely, was a blast from the slot from Williams that Leggio was able to handle.
Mark Voakes took the shutout away from Grumet-Morris when the center, who’d spent training camp with the Whale and spent most of the year with the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors recovered a loose puck that came off the sick of Tropp and fired it into the short side over the blocker with 7:37 to go.
Hagelin made a nice play and put a shot on net that hit off the goal post with 3:37 left.
The Whale killed off a Kelsey Tessier high sticking call with 3:17 left and the artificial two-man advantage when Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen pulled Leggio with 2:06 to go.
The final shot tally was 30-20 for the Whale who now travel up to Portland for game five on Thursday and guaranteed themselves at least one more home game Saturday night night. Tickets are on sale for that game online at Ticketmaster or by calling the Connecticut Whale ticket office at 860-728-3366.
Bruce Berlet has his take on things right here on Howlings. Chris Roy does a marvelous job with his coverage at mainehockeyjournal.com. Rachel Lenzi was on hand for Maine Today and published this story at PressHerald.com.
SOUNDS OF THE POST GAME:
* An all-time great line of Adam Graves on the left, Mark Messier in the middle and Gordie Howe on the right were in attendance. Just to put it in perspective, between the three of them that’s 3,852 games over a combined 73 seasons with 1682 goals, 2,858 assists and 4,540 points and 4,819 PIM…not to mention maybe one of the toughest lines of all time. Top defenseman Mark Howe was in the house as well.
Grachev – Mitchell – Weise
Zuccarello – Newbury – Kolarik
Hagelin – Dupont – Williams
Grant – Tessier – Couture
Redden – Nightingale
Valentenko – Parlett
Bickel – Kundratek
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Todd White – Concussion – Season
Devin DiDiomete – Hip – Season
Michael Del Zotto – Broken Finger – Day-to-Day
Ryan Garlock – Healthy Scratch
Francis Lemieux – Healthy Scratch
Justin Soryal – Healthy Scratch
Dylan McIlrath – Healthy Scratch
Jason Missiaen – Healthy Scratch
Kale Kerbashian – Healthy Scratch
Andrew Yogan – Healthy Scratch
Shayne Wiebe – Healthy Scratch
Jyri Niemi – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – C. Kolarik
2. CT – M. Zuccarello
3. CT – W. Redden
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Chris Ciamaga (41)
Ian Croft (87)
David Spannaus (8)
Luke Galvin (2)
Game Five is Thursday night in Portland. The Whale clearly have all the momentum as they head back to the Cumberland County Civic Center and look to go into the Pirates’ barn and steal a game and bring it back to Hartford with a chance to close it out on Saturday. The puck drops at 7pm with Bob Crawford handling the play-by-play. Pregame starts at 6:30.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $9.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Portland Pirates 1 at Connecticut Whale 3 – Status: Final
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Portland 0 0 1 – 1
Connecticut 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Kolarik 1 (Williams, Zuccarello), 16:32 (PP). Penalties-Adam Por (hooking), 4:58; Tropp Por (hooking), 11:16; Tropp Por (tripping), 14:34; Adam Por (tripping), 15:22; Valentenko Ct (interference), 18:52.
2nd Period-2, Connecticut, Mitchell 3 (Grachev), 4:45. Penalties-Grachev Ct (interference), 1:52; served by Hagelin Ct (bench minor – too many men), 2:43; Ellis Por (interference), 10:43; Zuccarello Ct (slashing), 11:05; Grachev Ct (elbowing), 12:10; Fienhage Por (hooking), 16:41; Grant Ct (roughing), 16:41.
3rd Period-3, Connecticut, Zuccarello 1 (Kolarik, Parlett), 4:48. 4, Portland, Voakes 2 (Tropp, Stuart), 12:23. Penalties-Biega Por (tripping), 6:16; Conboy Por (roughing), 6:50; Grant Ct (roughing), 10:20; Tessier Ct (high-sticking), 16:43.
Shots on Goal-Portland 5-9-6-20. Connecticut 12-8-10-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Portland 0 / 7; Connecticut 1 / 7.
Goalies-Portland, Leggio 2-2-0 (30 shots-27 saves). Connecticut, Grumet-Morris 2-2-0 (20 shots-19 saves).
Referees-Chris Ciamaga (41), Ian Croft (87).
Linesmen-David Spannaus (8), Luke Galvin (2).