PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates came from behind for an important 5-3 win against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before a crowd of 5,155 at the Cumberland County Civic Center Saturday night.
After falling behind 2-0, the Pirates scored three goals during the final six minutes of the first period to wrest control of the game and remain in the thick of the AHL playoff race.
“We’ve got to take that last 50 minutes (of the game) and duplicate it 14 more times,” Portland Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said.
The Pirates play eight of their next 10 games on the road, beginning with today’s game against the Whale in Hartford, Conn.
Portland is among seven teams battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With 14 games left, the Pirates are two points out of that last spot.
The way the Pirates started Saturday night’s game it looked as if they didn’t belong in the race.
“Once we got going it was fine,” Edwards said. “Just getting out of the box was ugly.”
It took the Sound Tigers 30 seconds to get the jump on the Pirates. Right wing Sean Backman picked up a rebound behind the Portland net and put a wrap-around shot inside the left post for his fifth goal.
Less than nine minutes into the game, center Trevor Frischman made it 2-0 when he tipped defenseman Matt Donovan’s blast from the top of the left circle past goalie Peter Mannino for his 10th goal.
Veteran right wing Ashton Rome and Brett MacLean scored less than two minutes apart to tie the score at 2-2 with less than four minutes left in the period.
“I think there was a big hit that really got us going, and then Rome with a great goal, and (Brett Hextall) with a great fight,” said rookie forward Ethan Werek, who scored with 1:34 left in the period to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
“All those combined, the last six or seven minutes of the first period, were a big shot in the arm for us.”
Bridgeport pulled into a 3-3 tie two minutes into the second period when Blair Riley put in a rebound.
With nine minutes left in the second period, rookie Andy Miele scored a short-handed goal on a backhander after taking the puck away from right wing Rhett Rakhshani in front of the Bridgeport net.
Hextall, another rookie forward, completed the scoring by putting his seventh goal into an empty net with 12.8 seconds left.
NOTES: Phoenix GM Don Maloney was at the Civic Center to watch the game. The Pirates lost MacLean and defenseman Maxim Goncharov to upper-body injuries during the game. A lower-body injury kept high-scoring defenseman Nathan Oystrick out of the Portland lineup for the fourth consecutive game. Former Bowdoin defenseman Jon Landry started the game for Bridgeport.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: