PORTLAND – If the Portland Pirates experienced a letdown during their first home game since returning from their longest trip of the season Friday night, it was barely discernible.
After starting off slowly, the Pirates finished with a rush in a 5-2 win against the Adirondack Phantoms before a sellout crowd of 6,783 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Portland, which won three of four games during its trip to Virginia and North Carolina, scored three goals in the first 12 minutes to gain control.
“Coming into tonight, we talked about our mental focus and how important it was going to be,” said Portland forward Matt Ellis, who scored a goal and had two assists. “Our legs may not have been there — we’ve logged a lot of miles — but we made sure we did the little things well early to get through. Our game kept building, and we got better and better and had a real strong third period.”
The Pirates, winners in 10 of their first 13 games, ran their home record to 7-0.
“The guys are excited,” Ellis said. “We’ve got a good thing going on at home, and you feel that energy. The energy coming off that, I think, helped pull us through.”
The Pirates took the lead for good six minutes into the second period when Dennis McCauley swept the puck into the right side of the net for his third goal of the season to snap a 1-1 tie. The goal came after rookie center Brian Roloff intercepted a pass at the top the slot and sent the puck to Corey Tropp in the left circle. As he made his way through the circle toward the goal, Tropp drew two defenders before sending a pass across the front of the crease to McCauley.
During the first six minutes of the third period, rookie center Luke Adam scored his league-high 10th goal of the season while the Pirates skated with a two-man advantage and Ellis scored their third short-handed goal of the season to make it 4-1.
After Dennis Hamel scored on a breakaway, Portland forward Mark Parrish put in a rebound to complete the scoring.
Goalie David Leggio made 28 saves to run his record to 6-0 in a Portland jersey.
The score was tied 1-1 at the end of the first period.
With exactly two minutes left, Adirondack forward David Laliberte tipped in his second goal on a power play 73 seconds after Portland defenseman Dennis Persson scored his first goal on a blast from the top of the left circle.
NOTES: Adirondack center Greg Moore, who grew up in Lisbon Falls, is playing for his fourth AHL team since finishing his four-year career at UMaine in 2006. … Persson was a teammate of Phantoms goalie Johan Backlund during the 2008-09 season at Timra IK in Sweden. … Portland’s Marc-Andre Gragnani and Laliberte spent four seasons together with Prince Edward Island of the QMJHL.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]