Johnson made 29 saves, lifting the Pirates past the Connecticut Whale, 2-1, in front 4,371 Friday night at the XL Center.
The goaltender, who signed as a free agent with the Phoenix Coyotes over the summer, had played his entire pro career for the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers in Hartford, spending three seasons with the organization previously known as the Hartford Wolf Pack until midway through the 2010-‘11 season when they rebranded as the Whale.
Johnson nearly had a shutout, but former Pirate Brandon Segal ended that when he scored for the Whale with only 36 seconds left in the game.
Matt Gilroy shot from the point rebounded off Johnson to Segal, who had a wide-open net to shoot in, pulled the Whale to within a goal.
Whale netminder Cameron Talbot, Johnson’s former teammate, was equal to the task keeping the game scoreless through two periods of play as Portland held a 25-17 shots advantage, but Alexandre Bolduc would finally break the deadlock early in the third period.
Bolduc threw the puck on net from outside the left circle, along the boards, and it deflected off Talbot and crossed the line to give Portland a 1-0 lead two minutes into the third period.
Rookie Chris Brown made it 2-0 for the Pirates at the 9:39 mark, firing a quick shot off a faceoff past Talbot. Brendan Shinnimin won the faceoff and was credited with an assists on the play.
Talbot finished with 31 saves in the loss.
NOTES: Oliver Ekman-Larsson returned to the lineup after missing
the last six games due to a right hand injury… To make room for Ekman-Larsson, defenseman Mike Stone was a healthy scratch. Chris Conner, Evan Brophey, Darian Dziurzynski and Mark Louis were scratched.