PORTLAND — The Portland Pirates clinched a berth in the Calder Cup playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons Saturday night, but they had to come from behind against the lowly Springfield Falcons to do it.
Travis Turnbull and Nathan Gerbe scored less than five minutes apart late in the third period to lift the Pirates to a 2-1 win before a crowd of 5,418 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Pirates remained three points behind Worcester for the Atlantic Division lead.
The Falcons, with the AHL’s worst record at 24-35-11-4, are no longer in contention for a playoff berth, but they played the Pirates tough.
“They might not be fighting for a playoff (spot), but they’re fighting for jobs,” said Gerbe, who snapped a 1-1 tie when he put in the rebound of his shot with 1:27 left.
“We know everybody is going to be competitive. They’re professionals, and everyone comes and brings it, whether you’re in the playoffs or not. Everybody brings their best game.”
For nearly three periods, Springfield made it difficult for Portland to play its game.
“We’re a puck-possession team,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. “We like to hang onto the puck. We like to try to use our advantage with our speed, and tonight we didn’t have much room to do that. They clogged us up.”
Still, it took the Falcons more than two periods to get the puck past Portland goalie J.P. Lamoureux.
Geoff Paukevich snapped the scoreless tie 10 minutes into the third period when he swept a shot into the left side for his fifth goal of the season.
A little less than four minutes later, Turnbull scored the equalizer. After Brad Larsen won a faceoff in the right circle, Turnbull skated behind the net and wheeled around to put in a shot from the bottom of the left circle for his ninth goal.
Less than five minutes later, Gerbe scored his 11th goal of the season on the Pirates’ fifth power play of the game.
“The thing I really like about our game is we came out and played hard in the third (period),” Dineen said. “We got down by a goal, but that didn’t bug us. We kept on playing hard.
“We’ve had some come-from-behind wins in the past month, and that’s a good sign for us going forward.”
NOTES: Jeff Cowan missed his second consecutive game, and the Pirates lost the services of Cody McCormick just 12 minutes into the game after he received a game misconduct for slashing Colin MacDonald. During the first intermission, Chris Jensen, captain of the 1994 Calder Cup championship team, became the 13th member of the Pirates’ Hall of Fame.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: