PORTLAND – Pierre Parenteau’s eyes probably couldn’t have gotten any bigger.
With a favorable rebound and an open net at his disposal, the Portland Pirates forward had to find the finishing touch in a hurry.
Parenteau’s second goal of the night lifted the Pirates to a series-clinching overtime triumph over the Hartford Wolf Pack. The rebound tally on the power play at 3:06 lifted Portland to a 5-4 victory Sunday and spot in the Calder Cup semifinals.
“I was like There’s no way I’m going to miss that,'” said Parenteau. “I had half the net open. I’m like This is going in for sure.’ It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in hockey. To put a team out like that is a great feeling.”
The Pirates advance to the Calder Cup semifinal against Hershey, the new affiliate of the Washington Capitals. That series begins in Portland on Wednesday and Thursday.
It took a back-and-forth battle in front of 5,389 at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Portland rallied twice from one-goal deficits, including a 4-3 deficit in the third period. The Pirates are now 8-1 in Game 6.
“What a hockey game,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. “The last couple of games have been so exciting. The emotion level going up and down the ladder, to finish off with a nice win and in overtime, that’s really exciting stuff. We’ve got a day to enjoy it and then we’re right back at it again.”
In a series where special teams played a significant role for both teams, neither club could score on the power play in regulation. Though there was an abundance of minors, the penalty kills proved too much. Still, there was plenty of end-to-end action as both teams matched each threat with one of its own.
In overtime, Hartford’s Greg Moore drew a minor for tripping Maxim Kondratiev behind the net. Portland turned the power play into victory when Parenteau cashed in on a rebound.
Zenon Konopka, who had three assists, fired a shot from the top of the slot. Hartford’s defenseman Dale Purrington blocked the shot, but it came right to Parenteau at the left circle.
“We had so many chances on the power play,” said Parenteau. “To finally get one, it’s a really great feeling.”
Down 4-3 entering the final period, Portland tied the game 1:10 into the third. Garrett Bembridge stole the puck from Daniel Girardi in front and roofed it for his second of the night.
Bembridge earned his way to the top line for his hard work in the series.
“Then I have a kid like Garrett Bembridge stepping up to play an incredible hockey game,” said Dineen. “You could see him in the last week. He worked so hard every single night. He deserved a spot and we put him up there on the first line. Talk about taking advantage.”
Hartford, playing with just five defensemen because of injury and a suspension to Martin Grenier, didn’t produce its first shot of the third period until 7:25 remained in regulation. Portland held Hartford to four shots in the third.
The back-and-forth nature of the series was apparent in the opening period. The teams traded various rushes and scoring threats in a 2-2 game after one period. Portland struck first with a Parenteau tally off a pass out of the corner by Bembridge with 8:28 left. Hartford tied it with 6:58 remaining with a Dwight Helminen wrister, and the Wolf Pack took the lead with 4:51 left with a Colby Genoway wrap-around goal. The Pirates came right back 28 seconds later. Bembridge literally crashed the net for a rebound. His momentum carried him and the puck into the net. The goal stood when it was ruled that the puck went in before the net came off the moorings.
After five minor penalties were called in the first three minutes of the second period, the Pirates killed off a Hartford power play despite constant pressure. Moments later, Portland took a 3-2 lead at 5:14 when Aaron Gavey finished off a Geoff Peters pass on a rush. Hartford tied the game on a Brandon Dubinsky score off a rebound at 8:47. The Wolf Pack then took the lead with 1:11 remaining while skating four-on-four. Nigel Dawes was in alone but was stonewalled by Pirate goaltender Jani Hurme. Dawes stole the puck back and slipped it past Hurme.
“The Anaheim Might Ducks are in the final four and the Portland Pirates are in the final four,” said Dineen. “That’s a really hard thing to do to get two teams to advance.”
PIRATES NOTES: Portland will host the first two games of the series with Hershey, begining Wednesday and Thursday, both at 7:05 p.m. The series then moves to Hershey for games Saturday and Sunday. The teams return to Portland on Tuesday, May 23, and Wednesday, May 24. Game 7, if needed, will be in Hershey on Tuesday, May 30.