LEWISTON — Call it the Lost Weekend.
Pirates goaltender Louis Domingue provided a lasting image of Portland’s puzzling meltdown when he slammed his stick over the crossbar until splintering the wood after seeing the visiting Manchester Monarchs score twice in 19 seconds of the third period on the way to a 7-4 victory Sunday afternoon.
A Colisee matinee crowd of 1,860 saw the Pirates squander a three-goal lead and lose for the third time in less than 45 hours, by a combined score of 21-9.
“It’s inexcusable to act like that,” Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said of the tantrum thrown by Domingue, who failed to finish a game for the second day in a row.
“I understand the frustration, but we’ve got to harness it better than that.”
The Pirates have won only six games all season in Lewiston, where crowds are the smallest in the 30-team AHL, and none in eight attempts since a New Year’s Eve victory over Bridgeport.
“It’s not pretty right now,” said Edwards, whose club set a franchise record of 134 penalty minutes in Saturday night’s 7-1 loss to Binghamton and allowed five power-play goals in Friday night’s 7-4 loss to St. John’s. “We’re going to have to dig down and figure out what the hell just happened this weekend.”
The Pirates actually came out in impressive fashion Sunday afternoon.
Before the game was two minutes old, Andy Miele fed Chris Brown in the slot and Brown’s one-timer gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
A hustling Darian Dziurzynski won a race to the puck behind the Manchester net, immediately flicked a backhand pass to an onrushing Brandon McMillan and his one-timer made it 2-0.
After Manchester scored on a slapshot from the right dot by Sean Blackman, the Pirates finished off the period with a power-play goal from Miele, his 19th of the season, after snappy puck movement from Brandon Gormley and Daine Todd.
It remained 3-1 when the Pirates went on the power play again in the first minute of the second period. In one of their prettier passing sequences of the season, Daine Todd dropped the puck in the slot to Miele, who zipped it to Tobias Rieder near the left post for his 14th goal of the season and a 4-1 lead.
“We had the game in control,” Edwards said, “right where we wanted it.”
Consecutive hooking penalties midway through the period on Miele and Jordan Szwarz set the stage for Manchester’s comeback and Portland’s collapse.
Manchester’s Tanner Pearson scored on a power play to make it 4-2.
Ian O’Connor jumped on the rebound of a shot by Hunter Bishop to make it 4-3 heading into the third.
Colin Miller tied it at 3:45 of the third.
Not quite two minutes later, Zach O’Brien scored the go-ahead goal followed quickly by another by Bishop for a 6-4 Manchester lead. O’Brien added the sixth straight unanswered goal midway through the period against the shell-shocked Pirates.
“We’re mentally weak right now,” Edwards said. “We just let them back in the game. They get a little bit of momentum and we can’t stop it. We’ve got to be tougher than what we showed.”
Mark Visentin finished with seven saves on eight shots in relief of Domingue, who left with 27 saves. The Pirates are now 6-16 in the Colisee, with six of those losses coming by shootout.
They return to action Wednesday in Binghamton and don’t play another home game for another two weeks, until after the All-Star Break.
Last weekend, the Pirates played three low-scoring games that ended in regulation ties. They lost one in a shootout, one in overtime and won the finale in a shootout.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Edwards said. “I didn’t see us giving up 21 goals in three games and losing leads.”
When it was suggested that Manchester, the top team in the Eastern Conference, may have been the cause of Portland’s collapse, Edwards shook his head.
The Monarchs “come hard, but we’ve seen that before,” Edwards said.
“We just didn’t handle it. We stopped moving, stopped skating, stopped talking, stopped playing. It’s a tough weekend.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: