PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Providence Bruins made an already snug playoff race tighter with a 6-3 win over the Portland Pirates Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The Bruins scored goals 43 seconds apart late in the second period to break a 2-2 tie.
The win moved the Bruins into seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
The Pirates are tied for eighth with Worcester and Bridgeport.
“We put three of those goals right on their sticks,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “You can’t win like that. We gave that game away.”
The Pirates began the scoring on a first-period power-play goal by Marc-Antoine Pouliot with just 10 seconds left in the advantage at 15:44.
“I thought we had some good plays (on the power play). We have enough players out there who know what they are doing and we kept hitting the net. Regardless, to get a goal in that sequence was big. The problem was we came back on our next two shifts and gave them easy goals,” said Edwards.
Providence’s Kyle MacKinnon, who skated for Providence College from 2007-11, banged home a pair of goals at 16:44 and 17:07 of the first, sending the Bruins into the first break with a 2-1 lead.
Pouliot’s second goal of the night at 2:55 of the second tied the game.
The deciding goals then came late in the second period.
Providence made it 3-2 with 3:52 remaining when former Pirates center Trent Whitfield took a feed from Bobby Robins, who was cutting behind the goal line, and snapped a shot from between the circles that eluded Pirates goalie Justin Pogge.
Providence padded its lead in quick fashion when Zach Hamil beat Pogge just 43 seconds later. He capitalized when Portland turned the puck over in its end.
“It’s tough to win in February when you give up what I call dumb goals. It’s a tough way to start the road trip,” said Edwards.
Matt Watkins narrowed the gap to one with a nearly unimpeded breakaway at 2:05 of the final period, but Providence responded with a pair of late scores.
In six games against the Bruins this season, Watkins has five goals and two assists for a team- leading seven points.
“He’s got great speed, he finds openings, and he’s a hard, hard worker. He’s a coach’s player,” Edwards said of Watkins, who has nine goals.
“There are about eight teams that will be fighting for four playoff spots. We’re going to lose some games down the wire, we just can’t let it snowball.”
The Pirates, who are 1-1 to start a four-game trip, play the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight.
The trip ends Sunday in Worcester.