Mike McKenna made a season-high 43 saves to make sure the Portland Pirates survived a sub-par performance Tuesday night.
Justin Hodgman scored his third goal of the season with less than four minutes left to snap a tie as the Pirates pulled out a 4-2 win against the Worcester Sharks in an AHL game played before a sparse crowd of 1,344 people at the Cross Insurance Arena.
“If we don’t have (McKenna) in the net tonight, we certainly don’t win that game,” said defenseman Andrew Campbell, who had a goal and an assist. ” The two points were obviously a credit to him. He played extremely well.”
It was the sixth consecutive start for McKenna. In those six games he’s allowed a total of 10 goals and stopped 171 shots to compile a .944 saves percentage.
“He’s giving us a chance every night,” Coach Ray Edwards said. “He’s making the right saves at the right time and that’s what keeps the game moving for us.”
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Pirates, who moved past the idle St. John’s IceCaps into second place in the Atlantic Division.
It also was a game they probably didn’t deserve to win.
“If you play like that too many times, you’re going to get shelled,” Campbell said. “Tonight was one of those rare oddities when you get two points in a game that you don’t deserve.”
“We didn’t have a good second effort at all tonight,” Edwards said. “You have to have a first effort to have a second effort, and we just didn’t have it tonight. We weren’t skating. We weren’t on pucks. We were reactionary all night tonight.”
Campbell, in his first season with Portland after six years with the Manchester Monarchs, put in his third goal of the season to open the scoring midway through the second period.
“I kind of read the play and their forwards were kind of sleeping a bit,” he said, explaining how he was able to get to the front of the net with the puck. “I got some free ice and I took it. I managed to make a nice move and beat their goalie.”
A little more than three minutes later, Alexandre Bolduc scored his team-high eighth goal by tipping the puck past goalie J.P. Anderson after beating a defender in a race for a long pass from Eric Selleck.
Less than a minute later, Danill Tarasov scored his fourth goal on a shot from the slot five seconds into the Sharks’ fifth power play.
Less than three minutes into the third period, Michael Haley made it 2-2 when he scored his team-high seventh goal on a wide-angled shot from below the left circle.
Hodgman’s winning goal came on a shot from the top of the slot.
With 50 seconds left, Tyler Gaudet put in an empty-netter for his third goal.
“Our group knows we weren’t good enough tonight but we found a way to win so we’ll take it,” Edwards said. “It’s better to win those games and teach rather than lose those games and be mad for four days.”