PORTLAND – Mark Mancari didn’t get the call from the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday when they turned to their AHL affiliate for some help.

But Mancari, the AHL’s leading goal scorer, didn’t sulk when veteran forward Matt Ellis and second-year forward Paul Byron got the call to play for the Sabres today against the New York Islanders.

What he did was go out and score three goals to lead the Pirates to a 5-2 win against the Providence Bruins before a sellout crowd of 7,126 at the Cumberland County Civic Center to put them into a tie with Manchester for first place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.

“I think Mark Mancari has decided to take care of what he can control,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said.

“When there is a call-up, you’re obviously hoping it’s you, and when it’s not, you’re a little down,” said Mancari, who played three games for the Sabres during a call-up in early December. “All you can do is keep working. You’ve got to continue to look at the big picture. Things are going to happen, and it’s not always going to be you. I’ve learned that over the past six years.”

Dineen said Mancari, who now leads the AHL with 23 goals, is not the only one of his players worthy of a promotion.

“We have about half a dozen candidates in (the locker room) who could have been called up, and the professionalism that showed here tonight really makes me proud and extremely honored to coach these guys,” he said. “I think these guys came to play tonight, and they all showed they were true professionals.”

Because of Saturday’s call-ups and the recall earlier in the week of defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani, Portland played with 17 skaters, one fewer than usual. It may have helped them.

“When you play short, you end up going through your lines quicker,” Mancari said. “Your shifts are a little bit shorter. At the end of the day, it’s kind of a benefit. You’re going in short spurts and you get into the game.”

The score was tied 1-1 at the end of the first period.

Benefitting from a two-man advantage, the Pirates opened the scoring seven minutes into the game when Colin Stuart put in a shot from the front of the crease for his ninth goal of the season.

Less than four minutes later, Lane MacDermid tied the score when he pushed in the rebound of his own shot through the crease and into the left side of the net for his third goal.

Mancari extended his points streak to 10 games when he scored on a breakaway 15 minutes into the second period.

Less then three minutes into the third, veteran center Trent Whitfield, who played seven seasons for Portland when the Pirates were affiliated with the Washington Capitals, scored on a breakaway to tie the score at 2-2.

With less than five minutes left in the game, defenseman Dennis Persson scored the winning goal on a blast from the center point with 40 seconds left on the Pirates’ fourth power play of game.

With less than two minutes left, Mancari finished off a 4-2 advantage with a goal.

With five seconds left, he completed his hat trick getting an empty-netter.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]