SPRINGFIELD, MA (FALCONSAHL.COM)— – Ryan Craig and Wade MacLeod extended their point streaks on Saturday night at the MassMutual Center, but the Springfield Falcons (29-12-4-3) fell in regulation for the first time in six games in a 3-1 loss to the Portland Pirates (29-18-1-1).
Craig became the fourth Falcon to register a goal or an assist in seven-consecutive outings (3g-6a) this season, while MacLeod increased his career-high point streak to six games (2g-5a) with his first-period conversion. Springfield maintained sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference following Saturday’s action, two points ahead of the Binghamton Senators.
The Pirates created a plethora of scoring chances in the opening frame, outshooting the Falcons, 13-4, but were able to beat Springfield netminder Curtis McElhinney just once. Chris Brown corralled an Alexandre Bolduc pass from the left-wing boards, skated to the top of the left circle and blasted a puck past McElhinney’s stick at 7:11, as Portland captured a 1-0 advantage.
Despite having few opportunities in the first, Springfield escaped from the opening 20 minutes tied with Portland after striking on the power play. Ryan Johansen slid the puck to the right goal line for Craig, who spun and fed a slick backhand pass to MacLeod in the left circle. MacLeod lobbed the puck over Pirates netminder Mike Lee at 17:57, tying the game, 1-1. Johansen lengthened his AHL point streak to five games (4g-3a) on the play dating back to Jan. 6.
McElhinney’s test became more difficult in the second period, as he faced 17 Portland attempts in the middle stanza. The eighth-year pro robbed Chris Conner point blank by stretching his left leg out, but was beaten later in the frame off by Boris Valabik off of a middle-point blast. Valabik received the puck from Michael Stone after Andy Miele won a face-off and slapped the puck by McElhinney’s glove at 14:59, putting Portland back in front, 2-1.
The Falcons tried to battle back, but ran into Lee’s strong goaltending on each attempt in the latter two periods. Playing in just his fifth-career AHL contest, Lee kept the Pirates ahead with a timely save on a Johansen point-blank bid four minutes into the third.
Portland earned all the insurance it would need later in the period as Jordan Szwarz and Rob Klinkhammer converged on McElhinney’s net. Klinkhammer took a bouncing puck, settled it down behind the net, and then snapped it by McElhinney from the right goal line at 8:33, increasing the Pirates’ edge to 3-1.
Lee (4-0-0) was nearly perfect, setting aside 27 of 28 shots. McElhinney (20-9-2) fought his way through a busy evening, making 35 saves.
Springfield’s division lead narrowed to 11 points after the Connecticut Whale prevailed in overtime on Saturday. The Falcons fell in regulation for the first time since Jan. 26.
Springfield closes out the weekend on Sunday at home against the Adirondack Phantoms at 3:00 p.m., and the Falcons will hold their annual team poster giveaway, courtesy of Friendly’s. Following the action, fans are invited to participate in a postgame skate, presented by Western New England University, before having their posters signed by Falcons players in the MassMutual Center concourse.
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. For information about discounted group packages to Falcons home games, call (413) 739-GOAL (4625).
Springfield lost in a game falling during a three-in-three for the first time in six tries, dating back to Jan. 5…The Falcons are now 11-5-2-2 in three-in-three games this season, but are only 1-3-1-2 in the middle contest of a three-in-three…Springfield scored on the power play for the 36th game out of 48 total contests this season and was 1/8 on the man advantage…The Falcons were 5/5 on the penalty kill, the fourth time in the last five outings that they did not allow an opponent to score on the power play….Springfield’s three-game home winning streak ended, as the Falcons fell at The Nest for the first time since Jan. 25…Portland became the first road team to win a game in the season series between the Falcons and the Pirates…One more game remains between the two clubs on Sunday, Apr. 7 in Portland…Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, David Savard, and Cam Atkinson also recorded point streaks of at least seven games in a Falcons sweater this season