Falcons Game 63: Falcons Dominate Pirates

Mike Clemente became the seventh goalie of the season for the Falcons on Friday night as the Falcons picked up two shorthanded goals and a power play tally to boot when they beat the Portland Pirates 5-1 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Clemente was signed to an ATO earlier in the week as Manny Legace continues to suffer from injury for the third week in a row. Meanwhile, Paul Dainton went home to Toronto mid-week to be with his Dad who underwent lung transplant surgery.

The first period was pretty much what you would have expected from a team on the cusp of playoff hockey and playing in front of a goaltender making his first pro start. The Birds outshot the Pirates by a solid 15-4 margin. At the other end of the ice, Peter Mannino earned his second start in a Portland uniform. Mannino has been around, playing briefly for the Winnipeg Jets earlier this season. In a strange twist of fate (would you expect anything else this season?), Mannino played in 22 games with the Chicago Express (yes, those Chicago Express!) turning in a 10-8-2-2 mark with a 3.15 GAA and a .899 save percentage. Mannino effortlessly turned away all 15 shots in the opening period as the teams skated off with no goals scored. More after the jump:

An early second period defensive lapse allowed the Pirates to penetrate the Falcons zone. Brett Sterling was able to find some free ice directly in front of the Falcons cage and Sterling promptly found the back of the net after Clemente left a loose puck near his skates, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

Nick Drazenovic pulled the Falcons even 1:14 later when he picked up his seventh goal of the campaign and his first since January 22nd. Matt Calvert found Greg Amadio open at the point. Amadio fired a blueline blast and Drazenovic retrieved the loose puck in the corner and took a shot from just in front of the goal line to the left of the Pirates cage. The shot handcuffed Mannino, tying the score at 1-1.

Two late Springfield penalties, Matt Calvert for slashing at 15:38 and Brent Regner at 18:02 for hooking brought the curtain down on the middle stanza. Regner's was one of those that you would call a "good" penalty, as it really was his only play on a Portland forward who had cut in on Clemente in a scoring bid.

One of those stats that is just inconceivable is that the Falcons coming into this game lit up the Pirates for 7 of their 12 shorthanded goals on the season. Adam Mair increased that to 8 of 13 when he cleanly beat Mannino, giving the Falcons a 2-1 lead.

Dalton Prout fired a laser from the blueline about two minutes later, finding the back of the net and giving the Falcons a 3-1 lead. Prout accepted a nice pass from Martin St. Pierre on the play. The assist by MSP was his 47th of the season, good for third in the AHL.

Snakebit, or struck by lightning, your choice, the Falcons picked up yet another shorty on the beleaguered Pirates when Matt Calvert took the biscuit in deep while Tomas Kubalik was serving two for unsportsmanlike conduct. Calvert hit the brakes at the top of the goal crease and utterly and completely de-jocked Mannino for his 14th of the season extending the Falcons lead to 4-1.

After a skirmish between Adam Mair and Mark Louis of the Pirates, the Birds went on a power play. Louis took the extra minor for being the instigator and Tomas Kubalik made them pay for it when he notched his 11th of the season, giving the Falcons a commanding 5-1 lead. Assisting on the PPG were Alexandre Giroux and Martin St. Pierre.

This was a huge character win for the Falcons when they needed it most. Well, until Saturday anyway when they head into the XL Center in Hartford to take on the Connecticut Whale. The Whale supplanted the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for first place in the Northeast Division with a big 3-2 win over Bridgeport on Friday night in Hartford.
Friday's Three Stars
1. Matt Calvert
2. Nick Drazenovic
3. Mike Clemente
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