HARTFORD — They came out flat and paid dearly for it.
In no way did the Portland Pirates resemble the team that had earned at least one point in seven previous games.
They let the Hartford Wolf Pack dictate the tempo of the game, couldn’t generate enough quality scoring chances to mount a comeback and lost 4-1 at the XL Center.
The Pirates, 5-1-1-1 in their last eight games, can only hope to regroup and return to playing the type of hockey that enabled them to recover from a brutal 2-5-0-1 start.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Hartford but we just didn’t play very well,” Pirates Coach Roy Edwards said. “We’ve played much better and that wasn’t the team I’m used to seeing.”
Goaltender Mark Visentin could have given the Pirates an early spark, denying a penalty shot by Darroll Powe before the game was two minutes old. But the Pirates failed to build off what could have been a momentum swing and the Wolf Pack went on to dominate offensively, making Portland look like a tired team.
J.T. Miller, playing in his first American Hockey League game since his Oct. 14 recall to the parent New York Rangers, scored one goal and set up another for Hartford.
This was just not destined to be the Pirates’ night. The Pirates were awarded the game’s second penalty shot one minute into the final period, but failed to capitalize when Tobias Rieder moved in on goalie Jeff Malcolm and rang a shot off the left post.
It was that kind of night for the Pirates.
“That could have changed the momentum,” Edwards said.
Miller opened the scoring at 8:03 of the first period. He was stationed at the top of the left circle when he received a pass from Stu Bickel and snapped in a shot that the goalie never saw.
Miller, who had four goals and four assists in three AHL games prior to his recall, had a hand in Hartford’s second goal.
He went into the corner untouched to dig out a loose puck and passed to the left circle where a waiting Kristo beat Visentin with a crisp wrist shot and a 2-0 advantage.
Not only did the Wolf Pack do a good job protecting their lead in the second period, they were able to add to it. Brandon Mashinter converted a pass from Aaron Johnson, who has four assists in three games against Portland, to provide Hartford with a 3-0 second period lead.
Kyle Hagel had the Pirates’ best scoring chance late in the second period, but fired wide of the net. It was Portland’s only chance off the forecheck in the period compared to seven by Hartford.
“We didn’t compete hard enough and we lost too many battles,” Edwards said. “We had very few good players tonight.”
Portland, frustrated on four previous power plays, finally cashed in on one during the third period when Lucas Lessio scored his fourth goal with an assist from Brendan Shimimin at 5:17 to cut the deficit to 3-1.
But any hope for a comeback ended after Ryan Bourque – son of NHL Hall of Famer Raymond Bourque – scored unassisted at 8:51.