LEWISTON — The Portland Pirates started their final homestand of the season Sunday afternoon by suffering their eighth consecutive defeat, but they didn’t go down easily.
Pirates rookie Lucas Lessio scored his team-high 28th goal with 5.8 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime, but Norfolk defenseman Jesse Blacker scored in the seventh round of the shootout to lift the Admirals to a 3-2 victory before a reported crowd of 2,169 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
“We didn’t get two points, but it was good to get one point, I guess, and to take it down to the end and compete that hard,” said right wing Brett Hextall, who scored his 11th goal of the season to give the Pirates a short-lived lead in the first period.
Norfolk defenseman Steve Eminger, who spent two seasons with the Pirates when the team was affiliated with the Washington Capitals a decade ago, wasn’t surprised about how difficult it was for the Admirals to get past the Pirates, the last-place team in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
“When you play a team that’s out of the playoffs, sometimes it’s harder than when you’re playing a team that’s in the playoffs,” he said. “They were pretty loose and weren’t really afraid to make mistakes. They just played.”
It was an important win for the Admirals, who are battling with the Hershey Bears for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Hextall opened the scoring less than seven minutes into the game. Andy Miele stole the puck in the neutral zone, took it into the right corner and deked a defenseman with a spin move before sending a pass through the circle to Hextall, who put in a one-timer from the hash mark.
About five minutes later, Emerson Etem turned a feed from Andre Petersson into his 22nd goal.
The Admirals took a 2-1 lead with less than two minutes left in the second period on Nick Kerdiles’ first professional goal. In his third game since finishing his two-year collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin, Kerdiles broke up a clearing attempt by Portland’s Sebastian Stalberg and rifled in a shot from the top of the slot.
NOTES: Pirates left wing Darian Dziurzynski will spend the rest of the season watching his team play from the stands after the league suspended him for three games as a consequence of his actions during Saturday night’s 4-0 loss against the Manchester Monarchs at Verizon Wireless Arena. Dziurzynski, in his second pro season, received his third and fourth game misconducts of the season, resulting in an automatic three-game suspension. In 54 games this season, he has two goals and seven assists. … Defenseman Nolan Yonkman is another former Pirate on the Admirals’ roster. Yonkman, who turned 33 on April 1, spent parts of four seasons with the Pirates from 2001-05.