The Pirates overcame a two-goal deficit to earn a 5-3 victory against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before 5,155 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Portland (29-28-3-3) now have 64 points, which is good for 12th in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, two points behind the Syracuse Crunch for the eighth and final playoff spot. Only four points separate seventh through 13th place in the conference.
For the Pirates to get into the playoffs they’ll have to do it from the road as they play eight of their next nine games on the road.
“(Friday) night we were playing a team (Springfield) that was playing a playoff game and we weren’t,” said Pirates coach Ray Edwards. “Tonight, we started off that way, but we figured out that we better get our stuff together. If we can play with that competitiveness, we’ll be ok. We need to take the fifty minutes of tonight’s game and duplicate it about 14 more times.”
The Pirates looked down and out early as they trailed, 2-0, less than 10 minutes into the first period.
The Sound Tigers only needed 30 seconds to get on the board as Sean Backman picked up a loose puck behind net and beat Pirates’ goalie Peter Mannino on a wraparound at the left post.
At 8:44, Bridgeport made it 2-0 after Trevor Frischmon redirected Matt Donovan’s shot from the point past Mannino.The floodgates opened for the Pirates finally got on the board, scoring three times in a four-minute span, starting with a goal by Ashton Rome as he beat a Sound Tigers’ defenseman, firing a wrist shot over the shoulder of Anders Nilsson, who entered the game with a 9-0-1 unbeaten streak in his last 10 starts, at the 14:13 mark of the first period.
It was Rome’s fourth goal in his last five games, and his seventh on the season.
“Rome’s goal gave us a boost,” said Edwards. “Once we got going we were fine, but getting out of the block was a little ugly. I like the way we played over the last fifty minutes.”
The Pirates tied the game two minutes later.
Alexandre Bolduc fired a shot from the slot that Nilsson couldn’t coral as Brett MacLean crashed into the crease area, picking up the loose puck and shoveling into the net, snapping an eight-game goalless streak, dating back to Feb. 20.With 1:34 left in the game, the Pirates scored a power-play goal when Ethan Werek, in the right circle, tipped David Rundblad’s from the right point past Nilsson, putting the Pirates out front, 3-2.
“That last six or seven minutes of the game gave us the shot in the arm that we need,” said Ethan Werek, who finished with a goal and assist. “We played with a pretty high intensity after that which is what we need to do.”
Bridgeport tied the game, 3-3, just 2:22 into the second period as one-time Pirate, in training camp, Blair Riley scooped up his own rebound near the left post and beat Mannino.
The Pirates took over offensively from that point, scoring the game-winning goal midway into the second period.
Rookie Andy Miele picked off Rhett Rakhshani in the Pirates’ zone for breakaway, beating Nilsson with an impressive move, going to a backhand deke at 9:07 of the period.
The Pirates have allowed a league leading twelve shorthanded goals this season, but have also been on the other side as they’ve scored eight times while killing a penalty.
“Andy (Miele) was out there four-on-four and got a break. That was a big goal for us,” said Edwards.
NOTES: Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney was in attendance at the Civic Center and will be with the team when they play Connecticut Sunday afternoon… The Pirates lost forward Brett MacLean and defenseman Max Goncharov to upper-body injuries. They will not accompany the team to Hartford… Nathan Oystrick missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury and will not be available tomorrow.