The Pirates rebounded for a 5-4 shootout victory over the Worcester Sharks before 5,907 at the Cumberland County Civic Center to pull even with the Manchester Monarchs for eighth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Monarchs, who have a game in hand over the Pirates, hold the tiebreaker and will play the Sharks on Tuesday in Worcester. The Pirates have three games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s allows us to keep a little bit of pressure on Manchester,” said Pirates’ coach Ray Edwards. “They know we’re right there. It forces them to win games.”
The game was not without tension and controversy.
The Pirates believed they had the game-winner in overtime only to have it called back as referee Mark Lemelin indicated that Brett Sterling interfered with Sharks’ goalie Harri Sateri.
Video later showed that not to be the case and the goal should have counted.
“It was a poor call,” said Edwards. “We have the ability to watch it after the fact and after watching it on tape, it’s not a great call. It’s hard for the officials because it happens so quick. He thought there was contact. We have the ability to see it on replay and there was clearly no contact. I’m just glad we won the game because it would have been pretty hard to swallow a call like that if we didn’t win the game.”
Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Brett Sterling scored in the shootout, while Peter Mannino (21 saves) stopped all four shooters.As Portland celebrated the victory, a melee broke out when Sharks’ defenseman Matt Pelech skate into the celebration and speared a Pirate.
Pelech was given a major and a game misconduct for spearing. Sharks’ forward Jimmy Bonneau was given a major penalty and game misconduct for fighting. No player from the Pirates was penalized from the incident.
Edwards was less than impressed with the Sharks’ tactics.
“As far as I’m concerned they started everything,” said Edwards. “They should have been held at their bench. They ignited everything by Pelech coming into our group, and Bonneau suckering one of our players. I thought it was totally unprofessional of their team.”
The Pirates overcame a one-goal deficit on three separate occasions in the game.
“They stuck with it,” Edwards said. “They knew they weren’t running on all cylinders, but they found a way to get the lead and then win it in the shootout.”
It only took Worcester just 46 seconds to get on the board as Nathan Moon scored his 12th goal of the season, curling behind the net, snapping a shot from below the left circle to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
Rookie Ethan Werek evened the game at 1-1 with a workmanlike goal after coming off the bench and driving to the net, picking up a feed from Nick Ross feed at the point, redirecting it past Sateri at 4:43 of the period.
The Sharks went back out front, 2-1, with a power-play goal as Guite, with his second assist of the game, slid the puck to Sena Acolatse for a quick shot from the left circle.
Worcester took back-to-back penalties only two seconds apart, giving the Pirates nearly a full five-on-three power play. Sterling capitalized scoring 47 seconds later, extending his point streak to three games with a saucer pass to Ross for a one-timer near the left hash mark at 10:35 of the first period.
Ross finished the game with a goal and two assists.
Curt Gogol pounded home the rebound at the right post with 7:06 to play in the period as Worcester went back out front, 3-2.
The Pirates scored the only goal of the second period to tie the game at 3-3.
Tyler Eckford ripped a shot from the left circle under the crossbar for a power-play goal just 4:37 into the period.
Werek notched his second of the night in the first minute of the third period, putting the Pirates out front for the first time in the game, 4-3, with a chip shot from the right post.
At 10:26, Matt Tennyson found the back of the net for Worcester’s second power-play goal of the game.
“I thought the game was sloppy,” Edwards said. “I didn’t like our game much tonight at all. It’s not that we didn’t work, but it was sloppy. It was an ugly game. I told the group we got the two points and we’ll clean up bad stuff and get ready for Wednesday.