“Coverage mistakes and lack of urgency on the back-check cost us two goals,” Whale head coach Ken Gernander told Brian Ring after the Connecticut Whale wasted a lead entering the third period for the seventh time this season and lost on the road at the Cumberland County Civic Center to the Portland Pirates 3-2 Friday night.
“We turned down some shot opportunities,”Gernander went on to add. “We’re better offensively when we’re straightforward, getting pucks to the net.”
It was one of those games that over the course of a season that your mind simply erases and moves on from. It wasn’t as of the Connecticut Whale didn’t show up or didn’t try. It was just a game that had no sandpaper in it, very little action and almost no emotion to it…and it showed in the Whale’s game.
This team almost seems to play better when there’s a bit o the rough stuff and the game has some snarl to it. This one had none.
After a rather uneventful first period that saw the Whale outshoot the Pirates by a 9-6 margin. The second came out as much the same.
At 4:40 though, Pavel Valentenko flipped the puck up ice along the boards to Andre Deveaux. The Whale right winger went to play the puck just inside the Pirate zone along the left boards, but it was taken away by Marc-Antoine Pouliot. The Pirate centerman swung out to the middle of the ice and sent the home run pass to a streaking Patrick O’Sullivan who split between Valentenko and Brendan Bell and came in unmolested on Chad Johnson (23 saves, 17-12-5). O’Sullivan wristed a hard shot from about 30 feet out and beat Johnson through the wickets for the 1-0 lead.
Wade Redden went to the penalty box on a delay of game penalty for putting the puck into the stands at 10:07. Patiently he waited his two minutes of isolation while his teammates battled to pick him up for his mental error. Their efforts on the penalty kill would soon be rewarded. Just after coming out of the box, Redden picked up a loose puck in the Whale zone and raced up along the boards on the left wing side. When he came out to the top of the Pirate’s left circle, the veteran defenseman with a slap shot that hit the right pad of Justin Pogge (26 saves, 12-12-3) and deflected into the short side of the net. Redden’s goal, his first of the season, came at 12:19.
But 25 seconds later, the Whale would double their tally. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault was in the right circle and dropped the puck to a pinching Jared nightingale who was in from the right point. Nightingale saw that he had one guy on him and there were three Pirate defenders all coming to him in the right circle. The other lone Pirate defender was high on the left side of the slot. Casey Wellman signaled from the left side to nightingale that he was all alone near the bottom of the left circle. Nightingale moved to the right side half boards and the four Pirate defenders cleared leaving a perfect lane for Nightingale to send the puck towards the net to Wellman who’d broken in all alone. All Wellman needed to do was put his stick out there as Nightingale’s pass was in perfect tape-to-tape position and Wellman had no problem dumping the puck into the left side of the net to make it a two goal outbreak for the visitors.
The only other excitement in the second frame came with Redden in the box on what would be the second of the three minors the defenseman would have on the night. Referee Jaime Koharski negated what would have been O’Sullivan’s second of the game, but the veteran referee ruled that a Pirate was in the crease and interfered with Johnson’s ability to play the puck. No goal.
In the third frame with Redden completing the penalty hat-trick at 6:06 for a tripping call, just 23 seconds into the man advantage, Andy Miele had the puck in the left circle and sent it to the left point to O’Sullivan. The right winger unloaded a slapper from just above the circle. Nathan Oystrick got a stick on it in front of Johnson and put it in the net to tie the score at two a side.
The score stayed that way for an additional 4:16. Miele brought the puck up from behind his net through the neutral zone and fed Mathieu Beaudoin just inside the right side of the Whale zone. Beaudoin advanced into the right circle and had two Whale defenders, Nightingale and Bell came out to meet him. Mats Zuccarello fell behind Ryan Duncan streaking up the left wing and through the slot. Beaudoin put the puck on Duncan’s stick and the right winger was able to backhand the puck past the sliding Johnson for what would prove to be the game winner at 10:45 of the third.
The Whale have the rare Saturday night off before a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Manchester Monarchs. It’s a certainty that Gernander will talk about intensity, getting shots to the net and maintaining their coverage, all of which needed help in this one.
Paul Betit was on hand for the game for the Press Herald. his piece also talks about a “trade/loan” Portland made. interestingly he reports that St. Johns is apparently working on deals to “loan” players. Could the Whale be in on something? Only Jim Schoenfeld would know for sure. But it’s interesting as teams look to make their playoff push.
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* After the game, Patrick O’Sullivan switched places with Brett Sterling in an exchange of former AHL rookies of the year. The Phoenix Coyotes have re-assigned O’Sullivan from the Portland Pirates to the Peoria Rivermen, and the St. Louis Blues sent Sterling from Peoria to Portland.
Zuccarello – Newbury – Deveaux
Bourque – Wellman – Audy-Marchessault
Grant – Tessier – Tanski
Thuresson – Owens – Prough
Valentenko – Vernace
Bell – Nightingale
Redden – Erixon
(Assistant Captains Bold and Italicized)
Francois Bouchard – Broken Wrist – Indefinite
Chad Kolarik – Knee – Two-to-Three Weeks
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
Sam Klassen – Healthy Scratch
Sean Avery – Healthy Scratch
1. POR – R. Duncan
2. POR – P. O’Sullivan
3. CT – C. Wellman
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Darcy Burchell (42)
Jamie Koharski (84)
Landon Bathe (80)
Joe Andrews (32)
Bob Crawford is on with the air with the pre-game show Sunday from Manchester for the Monarchs contest. You can hear all the action on WCCC.com starting at 2:50pm.
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 2 at Portland Pirates 3 – Status: Final
Friday, March 2, 2012 – Cumberland County Civic Center
Connecticut 0 2 0 – 2
Portland 0 1 2 – 3
1st Period– No Scoring.Penalties-Bolduc Por (slashing), 4:49; Nightingale Ct (cross-checking), 8:04; Ross Por (delay of game), 11:17.
2nd Period-1, Portland, O’Sullivan 10 (Pouliot, Louis), 4:40. 2, Connecticut, Redden 1 (Erixon), 12:19. 3, Connecticut, Wellman 18 (Nightingale, Audy-Marchessault), 12:44. Penalties-Szwarz Por (high-sticking), 5:36; Redden Ct (delay of game), 10:07; Redden Ct (hooking), 15:35; Bourque Ct (diving), 16:19; Pouliot Por (tripping), 16:19; served by Duncan Por (bench minor – too many men), 18:41.
3rd Period-4, Portland, Oystrick 10 (O’Sullivan, Miele), 6:29. 5, Portland, Duncan 13 (Miele, Beaudoin), 10:45. Penalties-Pouliot Por (high-sticking), 5:46; Redden Ct (tripping), 6:06; Erixon Ct (hooking), 12:35; Louis Por (boarding), 15:07.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 9-7-12-28. Portland 6-7-13-26.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 6; Portland 0 / 5.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 17-12-5 (26 shots-23 saves). Portland, Pogge 12-12-3 (28 shots-26 saves).
Referees-Darcy Burchell (42), Jamie Koharski (84).
Linesmen-Landon Bathe (80), Joe Andrews (32).