PORTLAND – It’s been a weird season for Nick Johnson.

First, he spent the entire NHL lockout in Phoenix, waiting for the season to start.

When the finally did start in January, he stayed with the Coyotes for nearly two months.

Two weeks ago, Johnson cleared waivers and was assigned to the Portland Pirates.

Friday night, he scored the winning goal as the Pirates snapped a three-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory against the Manchester Monarchs before 3,946 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“It just feels great to work and do things right, do the things I know I can do,” said Johnson, who also had two assists.

Johnson, who had four goals and two assists in 17 games with the Coyotes, snapped a 3-3 tie when he lifted in a shot from the slot for his second goal since joining the Pirates.

“There are a lot of scenarios in games, and it’s nice when we come back and get the goal, when we get the lead and we keep it,” Johnson said.

The Pirates pulled three points ahead of the idle Connecticut Whale and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the fifth spot in the race for one of the eight playoff berths from the Eastern Conference.

The score was 2-2 at the end of the first period.

The Pirates got off to a fast start when Chris Brown tipped in Chris Summers’ blast from center point for his team-high 25th goal of the season 26 seconds into the game.

Exactly two minutes later, Chris Conner turned a nifty feed from defenseman Brandon Gormley into his 13th goal during Portland’s first power play.

Less than four minutes into the game, Linden Vey, who leads the AHL with 62 points, scored a short-handed goal for the Monarchs. It was the AHL-leading 16th short-handed goal allowed by the Pirates.

With less than six minutes left in the period, Tanner Pearson put in a shot from the slot for his 14th goal to tie it.

The score was 3-3 at the end of two periods.

Less than two minutes in, Vey, while on the fly, put in a shot from the top of the right circle for his 20th goal. With 11 minutes left, Evan Brophey finished off a two-on-one break with Brendan Shinnimin with his sixth goal to tie it.

During the last five minutes of the game, Shinnimin scored a power-play goal and Brophey added an empty-netter.

“I thought our third period was as good as we played in a while,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “We competed real well. We got pucks out of the zone. We got pucks in. We got pucks to the net. Defended well. Hopefully we can continue to build off these little victories.”

The Pirates, now 6-4-1-0 against the Monarchs, didn’t have much time to savor the win. About 30 minutes after the game, they boarded a bus for the trip to Glens Falls, N.Y., for Saturday night’s game against the Adirondack Phantoms.

“We’ve got to get playing better on the road,” Edwards said. “We haven’t won on the road in a while and we have to prove to ourselves we can get some stuff done on the road.”

The Pirates have lost four of their last five road games. On March 5, they pulled out a 4-3 victory in a shootout against the Connecticut Whale.


Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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