PORTLAND — Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Brett Hextall scored 26 seconds apart late in the third period as the Portland Pirates found a way to extend the AHL’s current longest winning streak Wednesday night.
With less than six minutes left, Ekman-Larsson put in a wrist shot from the top of the left circle for his eighth goal to tie the score.
Moments later, Hextall finished off a rush down the right side with his fifth goal to lift the Pirates to a 3-2 win against the Springfield Falcons before a crowd of 2,543 at the Cumberland County Civic Center for their sixth consecutive win.
“It was just one of those games where you have to find a way to manage and just hang around,” Portland Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. “I thought we were playing fine. We were down a goal, but we were playing the right way, and you’ve got to stick with the game plan and keep going.”
There was never any doubt among the Pirates that they could win.
“We’ve been doing an unbelievable job sticking together,” Hextall said. “When things are not going our way or we’re down a goal, we’re staying positive, picking each other up.”
It was the second time in less than a month the Pirates – leaders in the Atlantic Division – have rallied to beat the Falcons, the Northeast Division leader.
“You can feel the belief on the bench and in the (locker) room that we’re going to get the job done,” Hextall said. “Sometimes, it takes until there’s five minutes left. Sometimes, it takes until overtime. We know if there’s time left we’ve got a shot.”
Portland (16-10-1-1) held a 32-22 edge in shots, but it had a difficult time keeping pressure on Springfield (15-6-2-3).
“There’s a reason they’re one of the top teams in the league,” Hextall said. “They track extremely well. We come into the zone and we try to make a play, and they’ve got not just one but even two guys there picking off passes or deflecting our passes, making them go where we don’t want them to go.”
The Pirates made a couple of adjustments during the third period to create more scoring opportunities.
“We just went a little more aggressive in our forecheck in the neutral zone, a little bit more on the puck,” Edwards said. “The third goal was the result of us getting up the ice quicker. Andy (Miele) stripped the puck and made a nice play to (Hextall).”
The Falcons took a 2-1 lead in the first period.
Less than two minutes into the game, Miele, moments into his first shift, scored his third goal in as many games. It was his eighth goal.
Defenseman David Savard tucked a rebound into the left side for his third goal .
Rookie Ryan Johansen scored his 10th goal while both teams were a man down as the Falcons moved into the lead with less than eight minutes left in the period.
NOTES: Phoenix Coyotes Coach Dave Tippett returns to Arizona Thursday after spending the last week with the Pirates. …
The Coyotes assigned forward Scott Arnold, who had two assists in eight games with the Pirates, to the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: