FALCONS FIRE AWAY EARLY, TAKE SOLE POSSESSION OF CONFERENCE'S TOP SPOT
Springfield, Mass. - The Springfield Falcons (5-1-0-1) exploded in the first period and then held off a rally by the Portland Pirates (3-3-1-0) on Sunday afternoon at the MassMutual Center to capture a 3-2 victory. With the win, the Falcons moved into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference entering the fourth week of the 2012-2013 AHL season.
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The Falcons did all of their offensive work in the opening frame, dominating the Pirates by outshooting them 19-4 and recording goals of power-play, short-handed, and even-strength varieties.
With Springfield on its opening man-advantage opportunity, Matt Calvert tipped in a Nick Drazenovic feed from the slot, putting Springfield on the board, 1-0, at 4:26.
The Falcons, who scored nine short-handed goals in eight games against the Pirates in 2011-2012, wasted no time in striking while down a man in their first period versus Portland this season. Andrew Joudrey received a long pass from Cody Bass, skated toward the net, and wristed the puck over the stick of Pirates goaltender Mark Visentin at 16:51 for the 2-0 lead. The short-handed marker was Springfield's first of the season and most recent since Adam Mair converted in that situation against Portland on Mar. 16, 2012.
Ryan Johansen buried a rebound at the top of the crease off a Cody Goloubef shot with the teams skating five-on-five, increasing the advantage to 3-0 at 19:22. Although still early in the contest, the second-year pro's tally would prove to be the difference.
The Pirates drew within a goal after compiling a second-period rally. With Portland on a five-on-three power play, Michael Stone ripped a shot in from the left circle at 5:20. Ethan Werek capitalized on a Falcon turnover later in the period, taking a puck from the left circle and redirecting it in off of Falcons netminder Curtis McElhinney, making it 3-2 at 15:11.
With just seconds remaining in the contest, Bass ran down a puck in Portland's end to prevent an icing. The veteran's heroics sent him crashing into the boards hard, but clinched Springfield's victory.
McElhinney (5-1-0-0) set aside 26 of 28 shots to tie Rochester's David Leggio for the league lead in victories. Visentin (1-1-0-0) stopped 38 of 41 Falcon bids.
Springfield exits the third week of the AHL's regular season with a one-point advantage over the Manchester Monarchs, Norfolk Admirals, and Syracuse Crunch for conference supremacy. The Falcons have points in six of their first seven games for the third time in franchise history, and first since 1997-1998.
The Falcons take on the Hershey Bears on Friday, Nov. 2 at the MassMutual Center before heading to Hartford to meet the Connecticut Whale at the XL Center on Sunday, Nov. 4, with both games commencing at 7:00 p.m.
Single-game tickets to see the Falcons in 2012-2013 can be purchased at the MassMutual Center Box Office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. through game time on Saturday home dates, and starting four hours prior to Sunday home contests. Fans can also purchase tickets by logging onto Ticketmaster.com.
Johansen's game-winning goal was his second of the season...Springfield improved to 2-0 in Sunday contests...McElhinney in two starts this week was 2-0-0-0 with a .952 save percentage, a 1.00 goals-against average, and a shutout...Springfield is now 79-65-15 all-time against Portland...The Falcons' team goals-against average of 1.71 leads the AHL...Portland has allowed six short-handed goals this season, one year after relinquishing 15...Springfield has a three-point edge over Bridgeport for first place in the Northeast Division...The Falcons' 19 first-period shots and 38 shots in the game are both season highs