BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Two goals in the first 41 seconds Sunday, that’s obviously the kind of start any team wants.
Kevin Dineen, coach of the Portland Pirates, loved the way they happened. And not only that it sparked Portland to a 6-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena.
“We haven’t seen that all year,” Dineen said, “but I liked the goals we scored early because they were within the structure of what we like to do. We got pucks in and allowed the forecheckers to do their thing.”
Derek Whitmore scored his 20th goal 13 seconds in after Bridgeport goalie Riley Gill — making his first AHL start for the decimated Sound Tigers — gave the puck away to Brian Roloff behind the net.
Mark Parrish scored on the rebound of a T.J. Brennan shot 28 seconds later to end Gill’s night almost before it began.
Bridgeport rebounded in the second, but Brennan and Corey Tropp scored in the third.
“As much as I liked the start, I really liked our third period,” Dineen said. “We settled down.”
Brennan, like defense partner Marc-Andre Gragnani, had a goal and an assist. Brennan scored the game-winning goal in Portland’s previous two games. His goal Sunday wasn’t the winner, but it restored a two-goal lead with 14:11 to go.
“He’s really had a good run lately,” Dineen said. “He’s playing solid hockey. He’s strong. He’s confident. As much as he’s contributing on offense, he knows his defensive responsibilities, too.”
“I’ve been trying to focus on the ugly things,” said Brennan, who is a plus-8 in February, and has six points in three games. “The puck’s kind of bouncing my way. I just want to see the team do well.”
The Pirates were without captain Matt Ellis. Dineen said he’s questionable for Wednesday’s game and could miss a couple of weeks with an injury he suffered in Friday’s win at Manchester. Dineen didn’t disclose the nature of the injury.
Portland was still rolling along fine Sunday against the Sound Tigers, who have lost a team-record nine in a row and have only one win in 18 games in 2011.
Colin Stuart’s shot from the bottom of the right circle beat Joel Martin and made it 3-0 just 5:19 into the game.
Bridgeport scraped its way back. Referee Gino Binda said Mark Mancari took away a Jean Bourbeau breakaway attempt, and Bourbeau made it 3-1 on the penalty shot, scoring on a slapper off Jhonas Enroth’s pads.
Gragnani’s goal from the left circle restored the three-goal lead at 9:52 of the second. But then Rob Hisey scored on the rush, and Tomas Marcinko rifled a loose puck through traffic and over Enroth’s glove, and Bridgeport had some life, but Brennan’s goal took it away again.
Brennan kept the puck in the zone twice on the play. The first time, he put it deep where Stuart and Tropp recovered it. A blocked shot caromed back to Brennan, who traded passes with Gragnani across the point.
Brennan one-timed Gragnani’s return pass, right across the blue line, inside the left post.
“It’s fun playing with (Gragnani),” Brennan said. “If you get open, he’ll find you.”
Tropp finished it on a power play. Enroth made 24 saves and improved to 18-14-1. Jacob Lagace came up from Greenville (ECHL) to fill out the lineup in Ellis’ absence.