HARTFORD, Conn. – It was hardly a super goal on Super Bowl Sunday, but the Portland Pirates were more than happy to accept it.

Defenseman T.J. Brennan picked up a loose puck near the blue line, skated toward the corner and fired a bad-angle shot that hit goalie Chad Johnson, the post and the keeper’s leg before trickling into the net with 3:12 left to give the Pirates a 3-2 victory over the Whale before 3,458 at the XL Center.

“As I was skating in, I saw (Colin Stuart and Corey Tropp) crashing the net, so I just wanted to get the puck on the net, and that’s what I did,” Brennan said. “When I skated around (the net), I saw the puck was over the goal line because (Johnson) never had control of it. Thank God it counted.”

The play was similar to Derek Whitmore’s power-play goal with 7.5 seconds left that gave the Pirates a 3-2 victory in their previous visit here on Jan. 29.

Brennan’s score proved the difference in a fifth one-goal game between the teams this season, with the Pirates (30-15-4-1) evening the series at three after blowing an early 2-0 lead. It helped alleviate the pain of a 4-3 loss at home Saturday night, when the Pirates surrendered three one-goal leads. With the win, Portland moves within two points of idle Atlantic Division-leading Manchester.

“It wasn’t a masterpiece, but you never critique the two points,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said. “We were in a game where we got so badly outplayed in one period (the second), I liked our response in the third. I’m just so respectful of the talent over there that you’re trying to weather the storm sometimes.

“Some of the play over there, specifically (former Pirates center) Tim Kennedy, who’s NHL-worthy, playing fabulous hockey and making a pretty good career against us, is a credit to their team.”

After Brennan got the tie-breaker, David Leggio (33 saves) made stellar stops on Wade Redden and Evgeny Grachev with 1:43 and 1:32 left. The Whale then pulled Johnson for a sixth attacker, and Leggio preserved the victory when he stopped Jason Williams cruising in off left wing with 1:02 left. After a Whale timeout, Williams’ deflection with eight seconds to go went just wide right.

But fortunately for the Pirates, Brennan’s shot somehow found its way into the net.

“It was just an ugly goal, just a bad goal,” Johnson said. “(Brennan) just came down the wing, hit the post and the puck kind of went on my right pad. I really didn’t get a good look at it, but it was just kind of sitting on my leg. I tried kind of leaning forward because I could feel it kind of rolling down the side of my leg.

“I didn’t know if it was over the line or not. I heard the whistle, and then I saw the ref coming into the picture and he’s pointing goal, goal, goal.”

Portland’s first two scores came from Justin Bowers and Mark Parrish.

Hartford’s goals were recorded by Chad Kolarik and Tim Kennedy.