By Brian Ring

Portland, ME, April 16, 2011 – Derek Whitmore scored two goals for Portland, including the overtime game-winner, Saturday night, giving the Pirates a two games to none lead over the Whale in their first-round playoff series before 5,029 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

CT WhaleMatt Ellis had put Portland on the board first just 5:02 into the first period, as he took a bad angle shot from behind the circle that appeared to fool Whale goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris (33 saves). Corey Tropp recorded his second point of the series with an assist on the goal, with Whitmore receiving the other assist.

The Whale tied the game at 15:26, as Francis Lemieux scored his first Connecticut goal on a partial breakaway off a long pass from the defensive blue line. Lemieux took a pass from defenseman Tomas Kundratek, skated in and then stuffed the puck underneath the pads of Portland goaltender David Leggio (23 saves) for the equalizer. Stu Bickel earned his first career AHL playoff assist with the other helper on the score.

John Mitchell gave the Whale the 2-1 lead on the power-play just 1:16 later, as a centering pass deflected off of a Portland defender and past Leggio. The goal was the first of the series for the Whale with the extra-man, coming unassisted.

The first period was markedly different from Thursday’s Game One, during which the Whale surrendered three goals in the span of less than three minutes. Connecticut outshot the Pirates, 16-8, in the first frame.

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The second period was a scoreless affair, as the Whale managed to hold the Pirates scoreless in four power-play attempts during the period. Portland outshot Connecticut, 7-3, in the frame, however the play of Grumet-Morris and the penalty-kill helped carry the Whale lead into the third period of play.

Despite the Whale killing seven-of-seven Portland power-play opportunities to that point, Connecticut allowed the even-strength equalizer as Whitmore tied the game for the Pirates with 7:40 remaining in the third. Grumet-Morris appeared to be bumped by one of his own players, Tommy Grant, in front of the net, aiding Whitmore’s unassisted drive.

“It was a mistake, everyone makes mistakes, I make mistakes all the time,” said Grumet-Morris of the inadvertent contact.

Grumet-Morris kept the Whale in the game despite allowing Whitmore’s first goal, as Connecticut was outshot, 16-2, in the period and could not put any pressure on the Portland defense. Regulation ended with the Pirates outshooting the Whale, 31-21.

The defining play off the game came off the stick of Lemieux, as his shot bounced straight off the shin pad of Portland defenseman Tim Conboy to the Pirates’ Brian Roloff.  Roloff then set up a two-on-one with Whitmore, whose shot beat Grumet-Morris for the game-winner and the two games to none series lead.

“That’s hockey. That’s overtime hockey. Unfortunately we came out on the wrong side of the game and we have to come back and try to win the next game at home. Quick turnaround, we have the game (Sunday) at home, that’s it,” said Grumet-Morris.

The series now switches back to the XL Center in Hartford for Games Three and Four. The Whale will host the Pirates Sunday (6:00 PM), and again on Tuesday (7:00 PM) as they continue their first-round matchup.

Connecticut Whale 2 at Portland Pirates 3 (OT)
Saturday, April 16, 2011 – Cumberland County Civic Center

Connecticut 2 0 0 0 – 2
Portland 1 0 1 1 – 3

1st Period-1, Portland, Ellis 1 (Tropp, Whitmore), 5:02. 2, Connecticut, Lemieux 1 (Kundratek, Bickel), 15:26. 3, Connecticut, Mitchell 1   16:42 (PP). Penalties-Hagelin Ct (hooking), 2:54; Brennan Por (high-sticking), 6:18; Gongalsky Por (slashing), 8:43; Stuart Por (roughing), 16:33.

2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Lemieux Ct (slashing), 2:21; Valentenko Ct (cross-checking), 7:12; Fienhage Por (interference), 9:53; Grant Ct (roughing), 15:45; Parlett Ct (high-sticking), 19:33.

3rd Period-4, Portland, Whitmore 1   12:20. Penalties-Grumet-Morris Ct (tripping), 3:24; Lemieux Ct (tripping), 8:32.

OT Period-5, Portland, Whitmore 2 (Roloff), 12:04. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Connecticut 16-3-2-4-25. Portland 8-7-16-5-36.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 1 / 4; Portland 0 / 7.
Goalies-Connecticut, Grumet-Morris 0-2-0 (36 shots-33 saves). Portland, Leggio 2-0-0 (25 shots-23 saves).
Referees-Terry Koharski (10), Mark Lemelin (84).
Linesmen-Landon Bathe (80), Joe Andrews (32).