PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates wanted to believe, but with each shot turned aside, Frederic Cassivi only encouraged doubt.
The Hershey Bears goaltender continued to frustrate the Portland Pirates and had a seemingly commanding 2-0 lead entering the final period Tuesday night.
A strange thing happened on the road to elimination, however. Portland finally managed to rattle the cage and beat the seemingly invincable Hershey goaltender with three goals in the final period.
The 3-2 victory in front of 3,401 at the Cumberland County Civic Center forced a Game 6 in Portland tonight.
Hershey still leads the Eastern Conference Final series 3-2, but another win would earn Portland a trip to Hershey next week for Game 7.
“We really do believe, but that was no miracle,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. “We believe that we can get it done. We did it early in the series when we had five minutes to go (Saturday). We scored two goals. We had a whole period to score goals (Tuesday). If you just look at our personnel and what they’ve done all year, when they go out there, they just think things are going to happen.”
There are eight Pirates who played for Cincinnati last year that were part of a team that erased a 3-1 deficit in the West Division semifinals to beat Milwaukee in seven games.
Portland got goals from Bruno St. Jacques, Ryan Shannon and Tim Brent in less than nine minutes to turn the table on Cassivi and the Bears.
“We just wanted to keep getting pucks to the net,” said Brent. “There was no disbelief in our dressing room. We wanted to keep at it. We believe in our system, and we believe in everything we’ve been doing all year.”
After appearing mortal in Saturday’s 6-5 overtime loss in Game 3, Cassivi had shut out Portland in five straight periods, but that didn’t last through the final period Tuesday.
Portland finally got one past Cassivi at 2:36 of the third period. Pierre Parenteau fed St. Jacques from behind the net to make it 2-1.
Though Hershey had a two-man advantage, Ladislav Smid nearly tied it on a breakaway after leaving the box. Cassivi stopped his backhander, but minutes later Portland scored on the power play to tie it at 7:25. Shannon’s shot from the left circle made its way through traffic for the equalizer.
“It’s a matter of our team having different people step up every night,” said Brent. “Someone always does that. We always have someone. That’s the identity of our team.”
Brent got the game-winner with 11:38 left in the game. Curtis Glencross simply threw the puck toward the net from behind the red line. His centering pass was backhanded in by Brent, who hadn’t scored a goal since late December.
“It’s been a long time,” said Brent, who missed much of the second half of the season to injury. “It’s tough to get back off an injury. You don’t have the same confidence you had when you were playing before.”
Hershey had four power plays in the opening period, including a five-on-three for 46 seconds. The Bears best bid came when Graham Mink had a try at a rebound at the left post. He had an opening but couldn’t bury it.
Though the Bears struck out on a fifth try at the power play, Hershey did scored just moments after the man-advantage expired.
Tomas Fleischmann wheeled around a Pirate defender at the right circle and fired a wrister from the slot at 3:20 of the second.
Then just after a Pirate power play ended, Hershey made it 2-0 at 6:06. Mike Green netted his first of the year, avoiding a sprawling Kent Huskins for a wrister from the high slot.
“They scored at key times,” said Dineen. “They scored right after a penalty kill and they scored right after a power play. That’s a tough thing to come back from. That’s a little bit demoralizing.”
PIRATES NOTES: The pre-game trash-talking initiated prior to Game 2 last week continued. With 20 seconds left in warm-ups, Hershey’s Louis Robitaille was jawing with Pirate Shane O’Brien. Zenon Konopka, who along with O’Brien confronted Robitaille last week prior to warmups, lurked nearby. Even Trevor Gillies got involved in the discussion and gave Robitaille a push before all the players skated away … Jordan Smith, whose career ended with an injury this season, delivered a pre-game speech to the Pirates.