They haven’t won in four games, but the Portland Pirates are still clawing their way toward a playoff berth.
The Pirates picked up another point Tuesday night in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Worcester Sharks before a crowd of 1,652 at the Cross Insurance Arena.
The victory lifted Worcester from seventh to fifth in the American Hockey League Eastern Conference playoff race. The Pirates moved out of a tie and into sole possession of the eighth and final playoff position with 82 points to Springfield’s 81. Springfield has played two more games than Portland.
Manchester, Syracuse and Hershey already qualified for the playoffs. That left six teams fighting for five remaining spots, with only six points separating Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (87), Providence (85), Hartford (85), Worcester, Portland and Springfield before Tuesday night.
After more than 62 minutes of scoreless hockey, Worcester’s Ryan Carpenter followed up a teammate’s breakaway, waited until Portland’s Justin Hodgman slid past in a desperate attempt to block his path and ended matters with his sixth goal of the season.
“I just held it and held it and held it and found a spot and luckily it went in,” Carpenter said. “I think the goalie got a piece of it. It went off his glove and trickled in.”
Dave Leggio finished with 24 saves for the Pirates, who next play Friday night in New Hampshire against the East’s top team, Manchester. After Friday’s game, the Pirates have five games remaining. The season ends April 19 at Worcester.
Mike McKenna started in net in Portland’s previous five games.
“We hadn’t won in a handful of games so we thought we’d give David an opportunity,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “That’s one of the reasons we got him. We knew we could put him in there and he’d give us a big game and he did.”
Indeed, the Pirates had ample opportunity to win in regulation, but Aaron Dell stopped all 30 shots they put on goal, including a Brendan Shinnimin short-handed breakaway late in the second period.
The Pirates failed to convert five power-play chances, including two in the final six minutes of regulation.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Edwards said. “There were plenty of chances to score one goal. It’s just the way it’s going for us right now.”
An apparent goal by Tyler Gaudet late in the second was waived off after a video review showed the puck had been kicked into the Worcester net.
After killing off the two late penalties in the third, the Sharks came out strong in overtime, when each team loses one skater, and put three shots on Leggio, who denied Eriah Hayes on a breakaway just before Carpenter’s goal.
“Four-on-four opens things up, and gives you a little more time and space,” Carpenter said. “With our team, we know we’re never out of it. It helps when you have Dell making big saves for us. … When you have good goaltending and good defense, you’re going to stay in games.”
Lucas Lessio and Darian Dziurzynski each tested Dell with hard shots in the third period. Jordan Martinook whiffed on the rebound of an Alex Bolduc backhand earlier in the period.
“We didn’t give up a lot at all until the overtime, and had plenty of opportunities to score,” Edwards said. “It’s just tough because you’d like to be able to find one or two there during the regulation.”
Still, it was a point, and the Pirates separated themselves, however slightly, from ninth-place Springfield.
“I liked the way we played,” Edwards said. “If we play like that, then we’ll be find. We defended hard. We didn’t give up much. (Leggio) was solid when we needed him to be.”
NOTES: Laurent Dauphin, second-round pick of Arizona in 2013, will join the Pirates this week from the Quebec Junior League.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or