PORTLAND – What a difference one week can make.
On Jan. 13, the Portland Pirates needed a miracle finish at the MassMutual Center to pull out 5-4 shootout win against the Springfield Falcons.
A night later, the Falcons skated to an easy 4-2 win against the Pirates at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Friday night, Portland grabbed the lead in the first minute and cruised to a 5-3 win against the Falcons before 4,946 at the Civic Center.
“It just seems we’re playing more together right now,” Portland defenseman Nathan Oystrick said. “We tend to do that and then get off track. Hopefully, we can keep this going.”
It was the fourth win in five games for the Pirates, who climbed past Manchester into a second-place tie with Worcester in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
During the last 10 days, Portland has added veterans forwards Patrick O’Sullivan, Alexandre Bolduc and Cal O’Reilly and young Swedish defenseman David Rundblad to its lineup, and all of them have had an impact.
“We’re much deeper,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “We’ve got four lines that can play. I’ve got a matchup guy with Bolduc. I’ve got two good scoring lines. It gives you something in your hand that you can play.”
“It’s that time of year where every point counts and everything matters, and we’ve got to keep going the way we are,” said Oystrick, who scored his ninth goal of the season to help the Pirates build a 3-1 lead in the first period.
It took O’Sullivan just 24 seconds to put Portland in front, as he scored on a breakaway. Goalie Justin Pogge got his first assist of the season.
Less than three minutes later, Rundblad scored his third goal in his fourth game since the parent Phoenix Coyotes sent him to Portland. He drove through traffic from the right point to the net and beat goalie Manny Legace with a backhander.
Springfield rookie Cam Atkinson made it 2-1 when he scored his team-high 22nd goal of the season on a power play 11 minutes into the period.
Oystrick, who leads Portland defensemen in scoring, answered with three minutes left in the period. He put the puck over Legace’s shoulder after rookie forward Jordan Szwarz sent a pass from the left boards across the front of the crease.
The Pirates increased their lead to 5-2 in the second period.
Less than six minutes into the period, O’Sullivan stole the puck and fought off two defenders to score on another breakaway. It was the veteran right wing’s fifth goal in 11 games with the Pirates.
About a minute later, Szwarz put in a rebound for his fourth goal. He skated on the second line with Brock Trotter and Andy Miele, who had three assists. Szwarz has recorded points in four of his last five games.
“I think it’s just a matter of me building some confidence in my game,” Szwarz said. “I feel more comfortable out on the ice, and I think it’s starting to pay off.”
With nine minutes left in the period, Falcons center David Joudrey tipped in a rebound for his sixth goal during a two-on-one break while both teams were short-handed.
Springfield’s Matt Calvert added a power-play goal in the third period.
NOTES: The Phoenix Coyotes recalled defenseman Maxim Goncharov, who still has one game left on a two-game suspension for a boarding incident last Saturday night at Springfield. Defenseman Greg Amadio, who spent part of the 2006-07 season with the Pirates, started the game for Springfield following his trade Thursday from the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Abbotsford Heat called up former UMaine center Robby Dee from the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: