PORTLAND - Just when the Portland Pirates need to be playing their best, they’re not.
The Hershey Bears skated to a 6-3 win over the Pirates to snap a four-game losing streak before 5,606 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Portland, among six teams embroiled in the race for the final three playoff slots in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, simply didn’t compete.
“You can use whatever excuse you want, but I’m not really in that business,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “To me, we just weren’t good enough. We didn’t execute well enough. We lost too many battles for pucks, races for pucks. We took too many penalties, obviously, and our penalty kill wasn’t good enough.”
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Pirates, who were more than a match for the Bears when the teams skated at even strength.
But the Pirates gave up five power-play goals, and that was the difference.
With four games left in the regular season, Portland needs three points to clinch a playoff berth.
The Pirates hold a two-point lead over the Norfolk Admirals and the Connecticut Whale in the race for sixth place. They’re four points ahead of the Manchester Monarchs and Hershey, who both have three games remaining.
Joey Crabb scored three goals to help keep Hershey’s flagging playoff hopes alive.
Tomas Kundratek, Peter LeBlanc and Dmitry Orlov also scored for the Bears, who play two of their remaining games on the road.
The Bears clicked for three power-play goals during the second period to take a 3-1 lead.
Kundratek scored his 16th goal of the season on a shot from the top of the right circle 28 seconds into the period. Less than 25 seconds into the Bears’ next power play, LeBlanc finished off a two-on-one break by tipping in pass from Bangor native Jon DiSalvatore for his 12th goal.
Portland seemed to regain some momentum when defenseman Maxim Goncharov intercepted a clearing pass and swept a backhander into the right side for his second goal with two minutes left in the period, but Crabb scored in the final minute to put Hershey back into a two-goal lead.
Less than seven minutes into third period, Troy Bodie, in his first game with the Pirates since coming on loan from Norfolk last week, put in a shot from the right boards to make it 3-2.
But Crabb struck again a little more than a minute later, slamming a shot into the right side.
Crabb, who has spent most of the season in the NHL with the parent Washington Capitals, completed his hat trick by scoring his sixth goal in nine games with Hershey. Orlov then added another power-play goal for a 6-2 lead.
Bodie scored his sixth goal of the season during a power play in the final minute.
NOTES: In ceremonies after the game, veteran center Alexandre Bolduc, currently playing in the NHL with the parent Phoenix Coyotes, was named the Pirates’ most valuable player based on a vote of the fans. Fans also selected Andy Miele as the team’s most popular player and Chris Summers as its unsung hero. Brett Hextall was selected by his teammates to receive the Players’ Player Award. Jordan Szwarz received the Tom Ebright Award, and rookie Chris Brown received the Jack Button Award as the Coyotes’ top prospect. Upper-body injuries kept Szwarz and recently acquired Brandon McMillan out of the Portland lineup.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: