The whistle blew after yet another flurry of shots at the Portland net and Pirates goalie Mike McKenna cradled the puck in his midsection. Five feet away, head down, hands on his knees and banging his stick on the ice in frustration was Norfolk Admirals center Antoine Laganiere.

McKenna turned away 31 shots Saturday night as the Pirates finished off a two-game sweep of Norfolk 2-0 before a crowd of 3,414 at Cross Insurance Arena.

The victory extended Portland’s winning streak to a season-high seven games and kept the Pirates in sixth place in the Eastern Conference of the American Hockey League. Eight teams from each conference advance to the playoffs.

“Personally, I’m aware of the standings, but I think we’re just all trying to focus on playing our best,” McKenna said. “If we win enough games, it’s going to take care of itself.”

Henrik Samuelsson and Brendan Shinnimin scored for the Pirates. Jordan Martinook had two assists.

The Admirals left town with only one goal in more than 120 minutes of hockey. Portland rallied to a 2-1 overtime victory Friday night, forcing extra time when Tyler Gaudet scored a late goal with McKenna pulled for an extra skater.

“We were a little better (Saturday) but we’re going to have to be much better next weekend,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “The important thing was to get the points this weekend. It’s hard not to look at the standings and see where teams are. But I told our group that game won’t translate next weekend. We’re going to have to find another gear.”

The Hershey Bears, currently leading the East Division and second only to Manchester in the conference, come to Portland for another two-game series next Friday and Saturday. Only 15 games remain in the regular season for the Pirates, 10 at home and five within easy driving distance, in New Hampshire or Massachusetts.

On Saturday night, the Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a sparkling passing display that began with center Alexandre Bolduc skating from behind his own net to the neutral zone. Bolduc spotted Martinook with a step on the Norfolk defense and led him perfectly with a pass that Martinook gathered in left of the Norfolk net, too deep for a shot. Instead, Martinook fed Samuelsson swooping in from the right side. After one deke, Samuelsson flicked a backhand into the net for his 13th goal of the season.

Shinnimin, playing in his first game after returning from the NHL Coyotes, made it 2-0 in the second on a breakaway only seven seconds after the expiration of his hooking penalty. Philip Samuelsson spotted Shinnimin at the far blue line and sent him in alone against Jason LaBarbera. Shinnimin beat LaBarbera glove side for his 15th goal of the season.

A four-minute power play courtesy of a Mark Fistric interference penalty coupled with unsportsmanlike conduct (and subsequent game misconduct for abuse of officials) gave the Pirates an opportunity to put the game away.

Instead, they only managed two scoring chances and were forced to scramble to protect their two-goal lead in the third, killing off three penalties of their own.

“We didn’t manage the game very well,” Edwards said. “We gave them every opportunity to get back in the game and you can’t sustain that against the Manchesters and the Wilkes-Barres of the world. Our game is going to have to get a lot better.”

What the Pirates did particularly well Saturday was snuff out Norfolk power plays. The Admirals were 0 for 7 with a man advantage.

“I don’t think they had that many power play shots,” McKenna said. “It’s a credit to our guys being in lanes, blocking shots, forcing them to shoot wide and that’s always a huge key to things. We did a great job with that tonight.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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