AHL: Pirates shut down Phantoms

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LEWISTON — A little break and a few reinforcements were just what the doctor ordered for the Portland Pirates.

And to show for it, the team has its first winning streak in nearly two months.

Chris Brown snapped a scoreless tie 1:54 into the third period and Brendan Shinnimin scored in his first game since a New Year’s Eve injury to lift the Pirates to a 2-0 win over the Adirondack Phantoms in front of 2,251 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Sunday.

“It’s been a long time since New Year’s Eve there,” Shinnimin said. “It was a long road, I’m just excited to get back, and I’m glad I was able to help our team out and we got the two points, which was key.”

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Louis Domingue made 28 saves, but left the game with 21 seconds to play after a line brawl broke out between the teams that ultimately included a goalie fight, precluding him from earning a shutout.

It was the second consecutive game in which a Portland keeper has been solid, with Mark Visentin stopping 53 shots in the Pirates’ win over the Phantoms on Friday.

The game got rough in the final minute, after a hit along the boards in the Portland zone. All five players on the ice for each side got into it, and goalie Cal Heeter — who was outstanding in the loss — charged across the surface looking for Domingue.

“It’s a joke,” Portland coach Ray Edwards said. “I’m proud of our guys for sticking up for each other, but the whole thing was a joke.”

After the ensuing faceoff, Zack FitzGerald charged Kyle Hagel and more fighting ensued. FitzGerald ended up with 40 total penalty minutes, including a major and game misconduct for cross-checking.

“(The Pirates’) clown coach over there puts Hagel on the ice with 21 seconds to go,” Adirondack coach Terry Murray said. “That’s what happened.”

The teams combined for 299 penalty minutes, with the Phantoms earning 179 of those — 140 of which came in the final 22 seconds of the game.

The game itself was tightly-contested, with both goaltenders — and particularly Heeter — keeping it that way.

“He’s been good here recently,” Murray said. “He was wonderful after the Christmas break. He went on a nice run. He was the No. 1 goalie in the league. He was player of the week. Our team’s gone through a little bit of a dip here, and that includes the goaltenders. But he had here tonight one of his better games.”

The Pirates, meanwhile, won in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 26. Portland also snapped a franchise-record nine-game home losing streak.

“We know we’ve got to win games, whether it’s here or on the road,” Edwards said.

Shinnimin’s return didn’t hurt.

“It’s good to get him back,” Edwards said. “He just has a lot of energy. It’s been a tough five or six weeks, so I think he was happy to be back in there tonight.”

In what appeared to be a reversal of roles for the teams from their previous meeting, the Pirates outshot the Phantoms 15-6 in the opening frame, due in large part to four chances on the power play.

“We shortened the bench quickly with four penalty kills in the first period, for a team that’s been playing as much as we have,” Murray said. “But I liked our overall game.”

The Pirates controlled the puck well on their first two power play chances, but didn’t manage many chances against Heeter.

On the third power play, Heeter stopped a pair of good tip tries in front, the best off the stick of Brandon Yip on a shot from the point.

“The power play in the first and second, we didn’t get anything but we had some really good chances,” Edwards said. “We told them just to stick with it, we’d find a way to get one in. Eventually we stayed with it and got a couple.”

The stalemate continued through the second period, with neither team able to gain traction. Both again had ample chance to move the puck with an extra skater.

Domingue was at his busiest later in the second, with a pair of tip opportunities and a point-blank chance from Matt Mangene. He squeezed the pads on all of them.

The Pirates broke through early in the third — on a power play.

The faceoff went back to the point, where Daine Todd collected the puck and slid it to Brandon Gormley. Gormley rifled a shot through traffic that skirted Brown on the way by. The wobbling puck caught Heeter in the pads and settled on the ice at Brown’s feet, where the Pirates’ forward took a second whack at it. The puck found a seam between Heeter’s pads and trickled over the line.

At 13:07 of the third, it was Shinnimin’s turn.

“Two power-play goals, the first comes off the faceoff and they send it to the net, and we’re playing above the guy,” Murray said. “He pounds it in. The second one, our defenseman has the puck and he knocks it down into the scrum and they found it.”

The Pirates finished 2-for-9 on the power play.

The Phantoms next skate Friday at home against Albany before hosting Bridgeport in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Portland returns to action Tuesday against the St. John’s IceCaps.

“I think we played two solid games, but that’s a team that’s down where we are in the standings, though,” Edwards said. “We’ve got to beat the teams ahead of us, like St. John’s coming in on Tuesday.”

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