PORTLAND – The Portland Pirates got one spark from rookie goalie Mark Visentin and another from right wing Jordan Szwarz at just the right times Friday night.
Visentin, making his first start in more than a month, made 31 saves and Szwarz scored twice to lead the Pirates to a 5-2 victory against the St. John’s IceCaps before 3,309 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Visentin, who was injured in a Feb. 11 game at Providence, had to stop nearly a shot per minute in the first 12 minutes.
“Obviously, (Visentin) has been out of the lineup for a long period here and he played exceptional tonight,” Szwarz said. “He’s worked very, very hard to get healthy enough to get back into game shape. All his hard work really paid off tonight, and he had a great game for us.”
St. John’s, in the opener of a six-game trip, was all over the Pirates at the start.
“Obviously they had a great start to their game and at the same time we had a bad start to our game,” Szwarz said. “We got through the first period, and we knew we had to put ourselves into a good position to set ourselves up for the third period.”
Szwarz snapped a 1-1 tie four minutes into the period when he lifted a penalty shot over goalie Mark Dekanich.
It was awarded after Szwarz was hauled down on a breakaway while on a penalty kill.
“Jordan is a true heart-and-soul player for the team, and I think he’s one of the guys who flies under the radar for the things he does,” Visentin said. “Not only does he score goals and produce points and hit guys, but he gets down and dirty. He blocks shots and works for us in the (defensive) zone.”
The score was 1-1 after the first period.
Aaron Gagnon, who didn’t score his first goal until Feb. 16, extended his points streak to eight games when he scored his seventh goal of the season 11 minutes into the game.
With three minutes left, Alexandre Bolduc tied it by jamming his 23rd goal into the left side to tie the score.
With less than three minutes left in the second period, Chris Brown made it 3-1 by tipping in defenseman Brandon Gormley’s blast from the right point for his team-high 24th goal 23 seconds into the Pirates’ third power play.
Andy Miele scored his 14th goal to make it 4-1 five minutes into the third period.
With less than 11 minutes left, Eric O’Dell scored his team-high 24th goal on St. John’s eighth power play.
With eight minutes left, Szwarz popped in a rebound for his 12th goal.
“We took some penalties again and it gave them an opportunity to get back into the game,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said, “but (Visentin) was good and our penalty kill was good and we were able to withstand that.”
NOTES: Don Maloney, general manager of the NHL parent Phoenix Coyotes, was at the game. The Coyotes called up Portland goalie Chad Johnson following an injury to Mike Smith, who was run over by Eric Edler of Vancouver on Thursday. The Pirates recalled Mike Smith from the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators. Defenseman Chris Summers didn’t suit up for the Pirates after returning from a 10-day stint with the Coyotes.
Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: