BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The Pirates’ blazing streak heads toward the AHL playoffs showing little sign of cooling off.

Mark Mancari’s goal with 9:18 remaining broke a 1-1 tie as Portland won its sixth straight, 3-1 against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Arena at Harbor Yard.

Mancari, reassigned from Buffalo on Wednesday, provided the winning goal on a blue-line slap shot for his team-leading 27th goal.

Despite dressing one fewer healthy body than the Tigers and being outshot 29-17, the Pirates hung on.

“(Bridgeport) came hard at us,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. “We were a man short, and that gave us an extra challenge to keep our energy up there.

“You need production throughout the lineup when you have call-ups and injuries. I really like the chemistry of our group.”

That chemistry might take the Pirates to a division title. The victory, coupled with division-leading Worcester’s 2-1 loss at Lowell, cut Portland’s Atlantic Division deficit to one point with four games remaining.

With Mancari back in the fold and scoring goals, catching Worcester is a realistic proposition. Dineen praised his star right-winger for returning to Portland with the right frame of mind.

“Guys get sent down sometimes and go through what I like to call NHL withdrawal symptoms,” Dineen said. “That’s an understandable emotion, that you’ve been flying on jets and staying in Ritz Carltons, and now you’re at the Holiday Inn and riding a bus.”

“It does make a difference and is a bit of downer, but all year long, Mark has done what he has been asked.”

Mancari, who had a goal and an assist in five games with the Sabres, took the demotion in stride.

“When you get sent down, you can’t let it sit in your head,” Mancari said. “You have to do what you did to get back there.

“It’s a fun time of the year, we’re going to the playoffs and I just have to do what I can.”

Despite mustering just five first-period shots, the Pirates got on the board first. Kyle Wanvig scored his 13th goal of the season on a one-timer off a pass from Paul Byron.

Portland held on to the 1-0 margin throughout the second, despite being outshot 16-4 in the period. With constant rushes into the Pirates’ zone, it seemed like a matter of time before the one-goal lead would vanish.

With 14:08 left in the third, Bridgeport’s Sean Bentivoglio tucked a wrist shot over Todd Ford’s right shoulder to tie the game.

Ford did not allow another goal, making 28 saves for his seventh win of the season. Ford, along with J.P. Lamoureux and Jhonas Enroth, has provided stability in goal throughout the season.


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