SPRINGFIELD, MASS. – The Portland Pirates looked like a team playing for first place.

The Springfield Falcons continued their annual late-season swoon.

Brian Roloff sparked a three-goal first period, scoring 18 seconds into the game Friday night to help the Pirates earn a 5-3 victory before 4,362 at the MassMutual Center.

It was the fifth straight victory for the Pirates, who moved into sole possession of first place after Manchester lost 3-1 to Worcester.

“We had a lot of motivation and we knew we were going to be playing a desperate hockey team,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said. “The last time we were here we got outplayed badly in the first period.”

Springfield, which has lost five straight and hasn’t won since beating the Pirates 4-1 on Feb. 26, remained mired in fifth place in the Atlantic Division, which likely will send only three teams to the Calder Cup playoffs.

The Pirates used speed to create offense from the rush and the Falcons had no answer.

“We feel speed is a big part of our game and we need to use it to be successful,” Dineen said. “It’s when we try to be cute and make those types of plays that it doesn’t happen for us.”

The Pirates seemingly won every battle.

“The last game played a big part in what we did because we knew we had to come out with a better start,” Roloff said. “Coach Dineen addressed that to us before the game.”

The Pirates got another strong effort in goal from David Leggio, who is 3-0 against the Falcons.

It was a good time to play well. Buffalo GM Darcy Regier was in attendance.

The Falcons desperately tried to get back in the game after the Pirates built a 3-1 lead. But Leggio made two point-blank saves off Maksim Mayorov, and robbed Peter Kalus on a breakaway moments later early in the second.

Then the Pirates made it 4-1: Roloff scored on a rebound.

The Falcons made it 4-2 when Portland defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani knocked the puck into his own net, but Luke Adam drove in a one-timer from the slot 26 seconds later.

NOTES: Mark Parrish was called up to the Buffalo Sabres. Former Pirates coach Tim Army resigned as coach of Providence College. Adam has three goals and seven assists in six games against the Falcons. The Pirates used seven defensemen.

VOTING HAS started for the Pirates’ Most Valuable Player, Unsung Hero and Most Popular Player awards.

Fans can vote online at portlandpirates.com or at the customer service table in the main lobby at the Cumberland County Civic Center during home games. Voting ends April 1. Award winners will be honored during postgame ceremonies following the April 10 game against Springfield.