PORTLAND – Just when the Portland Pirates should be tweaking their game to prepare for the Calder Cup playoffs, it looks like the team has taken a couple of steps backward.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers scored two third-period goals to pull out a 2-1 victory Wednesday night before a crowd of 2,572 at the Cumberland County Civic Center, beating the Pirates for the second time in six nights.

It was the fourth loss in five games for the playoff-bound Pirates, with all of those losses coming on their home ice.

“It seemed we had the game in hand and it kind of got away,” Portland left wing Derek Whitmore said. “It’s something that has been creeping into our game the last few times at home.

“We’ve taken leads into the third period and given them up and we can’t be doing that, especially this time of year going into the playoffs.”

Despite the loss, Portland remained three points ahead of the idle Manchester Monarchs in the race for first place in the AHL Atlantic Division. The Pirates have seven games left in the regular season while the Monarchs have five. They play each other two more times.

Portland took the lead less than four minutes into the game when Paul Byron broke in alone on the right after stealing the puck outside the blue line and scored his 21st goal of the season.

The Pirates controlled the game for the first 30 minutes and limited the Sound Tigers to a single shot on goal during the first 12 minutes of the second period.

“It was pretty evident (Bridgeport) took over the game in the third period and had more energy when it counted,” Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen said.

Brian Day, who scored his first AHL goal in the Sound Tigers’ 5-1 win over the Pirates last Friday night, finished off a two-on-one break nine minutes into the third period to tie the score.

Less than two minutes later as the defense collapsed around Portland goalie David Leggio, David Ulstrom got his stick on a loose puck inside the crease and lifted a backhander inside the right post for his 16th goal.

The Pirates played the game with 17 skaters, one fewer than usual.

“It’s been a pretty tough grind here playing short-handed the way we have been, but you don’t want to look for excuses,” Whitmore said. “There’s a reason why you’re losing games, and you don’t want to use being tired or being short as an excuse. We’ve had games this year where we’ve played solid hockey with a short bench, and tonight was no different.”

Earlier Tuesday, center Matt Ellis was called to the NHL by the parent Buffalo Sabres. The Pirates signed former Lake Superior State center John Scrymgeour to a professional tryout contract. He dressed for the game, although he didn’t arrive in Maine in time to skate in the pregame warm-up.

The Pirates also played without defenseman Tim Conboy for the second consecutive game.

“We would have liked to have had (Conboy) in the lineup, but he’s a little dinged up right now and it was necessary to give him some time off,” Dineen said.

On Saturday in Manchester, the Pirates will begin a stretch of seven games in nine nights to finish the regular season. Dineen said he will try to add players to the roster.

“I’ve got to get about five more bodies in here to try to give us some energy in the lineup,” he said. “My priority right now is to try to get some players in here.”


NOTES: Portland center Luke Adam was named to the AHL’s all-rookie team.


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

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