PORTLAND — Defenseman Nathan Oystrick scored his second power-play goal of the game with 33 seconds left in overtime to lift the Portland Pirates to a dramatic 5-4 win against the Connecticut Whale Monday afternoon.
Oystrick sent the game into OT when he scored his first power-play goal with 29.2 seconds left in the third period as the Pirates rallied from a three-goal deficit to pull out the win before a crowd of 3,524 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“What I’m liking about our group, right now, is that we continue to fight, we continue to get better,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “That was a game where we weren’t great, but we found a way to win. That’s an important trait.”
It was the fifth game in eight days for the Pirates, who pulled to within a point of the third-place Worcester Sharks in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
“This was a tough game to play, but they hung in there and battled and found a way to get it done,” Edwards said.
The Whale owned the first 40 minutes.
Kris Newbury opened the scoring 25 seconds into the first period by sliding a rebound in from the slot for his team-high 13th goal. Almost four minutes later, center Kelsey Tessier made it 2-0 when he finished off a two-on-one break.
At 9:21 of the second period, Tessier made it 3-0 when he tipped defenseman Pavel Valentenko’s blast from the top of the left circle into the top right corner of the goal for his sixth goal.
After the goal, Marc Cheverie, who was called up from the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators a week ago, replaced Justin Pogge in goal for the Pirates.
“You’re just trying to send a message to your team,” said Edwards, explaining the change.
Cheverie then stopped 20 of 21 shots as the Whale outshot the Pirates, 40-26.
With less than four minutes left in the second period, Brett MacLean lifted his team-high 14th goal into the left side of the goal — the Pirates’ second shot of the period.
Less than a minute into the third period, Matt Watkins made it 3-2 when he put a backhander past goalie Cameron Talbot for his sixth goal following Brett Hextall’s long feed from the left point.
About four minutes later, Brock Trotter tied the score when he tipped the puck in off Talbot’s glove for his ninth goal two seconds into a power play after Andy Miele won a faceoff in the right circle.
The Whale regained the lead when Jonathan Audy-Marchessault jammed in a rebound for his 12th goal with more than 10 minutes left in the game.
But the Pirates didn’t quit and took advantage when the Whale were called for penalties late in the third period and overtime.
“It’s nice to get bounces, and when you work hard and play the game right, things come to you, and that’s what we did tonight,” Oystrick said. “A few weeks ago, those bounces weren’t coming, those power plays weren’t coming, and now they are and we have to capitalize on them as a much as we can.”
The Pirates (16-12-2-3) have earned points in all five games since the Christmas break.
“We’ve really come together as a team in the past couple of weeks,” Oystrick said. “We’re sticking up for each other more and more and gelling. It takes a little bit of time to get everyone going and on the same page, and we’re finally getting there.”
NOTES: NHL Hall of Famer Ray Bourque was at the game to watch his youngest son, Ryan, play for the Whale. His oldest son, Chris, plays for the Hershey Bears
It was Cheverie’s second appearance of the season. On Nov. 18, he replaced Curtis McElhinney in the first period of a 4-2 win against the Adirondack Phantoms
Left wing Sean Avery was back in the Connecticut lineup after spending two months with the New York Rangers.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]