Connecticut Whale head coach Ken Gernander does not handle losing well and it is almost a certainty that he was beside himself on Monday afternoon at the Cumberland County Civic Center after his Whale amassed a three goal lead over the Portland Pirates through the first 36:12 only to give it all back over the final 24:48 before eventually succumbing to the home team 5-4 in overtime on Nathan Oystrick’s second goal of the game.
Over the first period and a half, the Whale built a 3-0 lead on two goals by from Kelsey Tessier and the fourth goal in as many games from the AHL’s Reebok Player of the Week, Kris Newbury.
Despite giving back the three goal lead, the Whale were still in the driver’s seat for a win when Jonathan Audy-Marchessault scored at 9:20 of the third period on a feed from Newbury and Andre Deveaux. The Whale held onto that lead until a run of three straight penalties, the first to Tim Erixon that negated a power play for the Whale followed by a Jordan Owens Delay of Game for throwing the puck into the stands and then with 1:52 remaining, Sean Avery, playing in his first game since passing through waivers and being reassigned to the Whale, took a foolish High Sticking call while killing off Owens penalty and put the team down two men for 59 seconds.
While the Whale managed to kill off the two-man deficit, they could not get the puck out of their own end and with just 29.2 left in regulation, Oystrick buried his first of the game and seventh of the season on a one-timer in the right circle off a feed from the left side by the game’s Second Star, Brock Trotter to send the game to extra time.
To their credit, the Whale did not quit and had a Audy-Marchessault and Newbury 2-on-1 shorthanded chance at 30 seconds of OT that rookie netminder Marc Cheverie (2-0-0, 20 saves) denied.
But as has been the case all season long, the league’s most penalized team did it to themselves again as Audy-Marchessault took a lazy offensive zone tripping penalty at 2:33 of OT to give the Pirates their eighth power play of the game. For the third time, the Whale defense could not contain it and it was Oystrick again from the right circle firing a shot over Cam Talbot’s far shoulder and into the back of the net with just five seconds remaining on the penalty and 32.2 before they’d have gone to a shootout.
The Whale got on the board just twenty-five seconds into the contest as they came out on fire. Newbury won the opening draw and sent the puck into the right wing corner of the Pirates’ zone. Deveaux wound up wit hit and sent it out to Brendan Bell in front. The veteran defenseman fired a hard shot at Pogge and it rebounded to him on the left side and he fired it into the net.
Tessier got his first of two in the game after Francois Bouchard, who registered his fourth helper in two games by advancing the puck to Andreas Thuresson who sprung Tessier who skated some distance between himself and the defender and wristed a shot off the rush that beat Pogge from the right circle.
Talbot (9-7-0, 21 saves) was solid in the first, looking exceptionally sharp first denying ex-Wolf Pack and New York Ranger Ryan Hollweg in a chance in front just 1:00 into the game and then made an incredible stop on Brett Maclean on a PK at 17:43.
The Pirates had an apparent goal wiped out when it was determined that Matt Watkins goal was the result of a Pirate player interfering with Talbot’s ability to make a save in the crease with just 57 seconds left in the period.
Pavel Valentenko remained hot as his shot from the left wing boards was redirected by Tessier and put into the back of the net at 9:21 of the second. The goal gave Tessier his second two goal game of the season and only the third time in his career.
But Pirates head coach Ray Edwards decided to switch his veteran netminder, Justin Pogge (5-3-3, 16 saves) for the rookie Cheverie after Tessier’s second goal at 9:21 of the second period and the switch woke up his troops and turned the game in the Phoenix Coyotes’ AHL franchise’s favor as they began their comeback.
Newbury extended his scoring streak to eight games, (5g, 12a, 17pts) the longest by any Whale player this season. Valentenko extended his streak to three games (1g, 3a) as did Thuresson (2g, a1) and Audy-Marchessault has point in six of his last eight (4g, 4a).
After a performance like this, it’s likely the most sought after seat on the bus was the furthest from Gernander.
Although on the bright side, they did get a point out of it and extended their point lead over second place Adirondack to seven points, but the Phantoms have two games in hand.
The Whale travel to see the defending AHL Champion Binghamton Senators on Friday night. Game time is 7:05.
Paul Betit will have the Portland Story at PressHerald.com.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* While Sean Avery, back in the lineup after being waived by the Rangers and reassigned, had a decent game overall, but again, it was his foolish penalty that allowed the opportunity to set up the backbreaking equalizer at the end of regulation. Avery will make his home debut on Saturday night against Springfield.
* The Whale power play entered the game 4th in the AHL at 21.9% and after going 0-5 left the game 5th at 21.1%
* The Whale PK entered the game 9th at 84.2% efficiency and after allowing 3g on 8 tries it dropped to 10th at 83.3%
* The Whale have not won two games in a row since the final two wins over a four game winning streak from Nov. 26th to Dec. 3rd.
* The Whale record when leading after two periods drops to 10-2-2-1. Having lost five games when leading after two periods is a concern, but they seem to be doing well when trailing after two having a 5-5-0-1 record.
* In games decided by one goal, the Whale are 10-5-2-3
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Deveaux
Voros – Avery – Bourque
Bouchard – Tessier – Thuresson
Grant – Owens – McKelvie
Bell – Klassen
Erixon – Nightingale
Valentenko – Parlett
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Wade Redden – Lower Body – Indefinite
Mats Zuccarello – Lower Body – 2-3 Weeks
Lee Baldwin – Healthy Scratch
Scott Tanski – Healthy Scratch
Jeff Prough – Healthy Scratch
1. POR – N. Oystrick
2. POR – B. Trotter
3. CT – K. Tessier
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Geno Binda (22)
Mark Lemelin (41)
Joe Andrews (32)
Landon Bathe (80)
The Whale return to the road again on Friday night when they travel up to Binghamton to do battle with last season’s AHL Calder Cup champion, Senators. Bob Crawford will be on the air with the pre-game show at 6:55pm on WCCC.com.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Connecticut Whale 4 at Portland Pirates 5 (OT) – Status: Final OT
Monday, January 2, 2012 – Cumberland County Civic Center
Connecticut 2 1 1 0 – 4
Portland 0 1 3 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Connecticut, Newbury 13 (Bell, Deveaux), 0:25. 2, Connecticut, Tessier 5 (Thuresson, Bouchard), 4:23. Penalties-Stone Por (holding), 5:29; Newbury Ct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:39; Owens Ct (tripping), 17:11; Audy-Marchessault Ct (roughing), 19:25; Hextall Por (slashing), 19:25.
2nd Period-3, Connecticut, Tessier 6 (Valentenko, Bouchard), 9:21. 4, Portland, MacLean 14 (Miele, Trotter), 16:12. Penalties-Rome Por (slashing), 4:14; Bouchard Ct (hooking), 12:05; Duncan Por (hooking), 18:07.
3rd Period-5, Portland, Watkins 6 (Hextall, Duncan), 0:59. 6, Portland, Trotter 9 (Miele), 4:47 (PP). 7, Connecticut, Audy-Marchessault 12 (Deveaux), 9:20. 8, Portland, Oystrick 7 (Trotter, MacLean), 19:30 (PP). Penalties-Voros Ct (high-sticking), 4:45; Hollweg Por (tripping), 5:27; Oystrick Por (interference), 13:19; Erixon Ct (tripping), 15:01; Owens Ct (delay of game), 17:07; Avery Ct (high-sticking), 18:08.
OT Period-9, Portland, Oystrick 8 (Duncan, Trotter), 4:27 (PP). Penalties-Audy-Marchessault Ct (tripping), 2:33.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 14-10-15-1-40. Portland 9-2-14-1-26.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 5; Portland 3 / 8.
Goalies-Connecticut, Talbot 9-7-0 (26 shots-21 saves). Portland, Pogge 5-3-3 (19 shots-16 saves); Cheverie 2-0-0 (21 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Geno Binda (22), Mark Lemelin (41).
Linesmen-Joe Andrews (32), Landon Bathe (80).