HARTFORD, Conn. – The sense of urgency was absent for the Portland Pirates in the first period but began to emerge at the start of the second. Before the second period was over, that vital sense of urgency reached a new height.

The Portland Pirates avoided a seventh game in their Atlantic Division semifinal series Saturday night, scoring all their goals in the final two periods for a 6-4 victory against the Connecticut Whale.

Portland, which rallied from a two-goal deficit, wrapped up the series in six games and will meet the Binghamton Senators in the Atlantic Division finals starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“You don’t really think about if there’s going to be a Game 7,” said defenseman Alex Biega, whose second-period goal gave Portland a 4-3 lead. “You never want to play the day after Easter and have to go on Easter for practice and whatnot. But you try to take it game by game. We had an opportunity to close them out and we executed.”

“Nothing comes easy and it’s the playoffs,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. “You have to prepare yourself for that kind of an effort. Obviously we pushed back very well.”

The Pirates went without a shot on their first three power plays and trailed 2-0 after two first-period power-play goals by the Whale — Jeremy Williams’ goal on a wrist shot at 3:45, and Dale Weise’s goal with 1:18 left in the period.

“They came out hard,” said Pirates center Paul Byron, who had two goals and an assist. “This was Game 7 for them.”

What worked for the Whale in the first period evaded them in the second.

“We were turning too many pucks over, and you could just see on all their goals, those were nonsense plays when we got the puck, just throwing it away, and that’s one thing we weren’t doing in the first period,” Weise said. “We play a simple game and that’s where we’ve had our success. We just didn’t do that there in the second period for a 7-to-10 minute lapse and it killed us.

“We knew what we had to do in the second period and we just didn’t do it. To lose is frustrating. To lose the way we did is just heartbreaking.”

The Pirates put the first seven shots on goal in the second period, including goals by Byron and Mark Parrish in the first five minutes.

Mark Mancari gave Portland its first lead when he dug out a loose puck in front and beat Dov Grumet-Morris (24 saves) on his glove side at 9:25.

Less than 1:30 later, Connecticut’s Carl Hagelin deflected Tomas Kundratek’s shot from the top of the slot past Pirates goalie David Leggio (30 saves) for his first professional goal.

But with 2:52 left in the second, Biega’s shot from the slot finished a four-on-two rush and put the Pirates back in front, 4-3.

Byron and Corey Tropp added third-period goals for the Pirates.

“The third period, I just thought we were an extremely confident bunch,” Dineen said. “I thought we played a confident game. I think we played hard, we played smart, we exposed them where we could and it worked out for us.”

NOTES: The Buffalo Sabres recalled Pirates center Matt Ellis after Sabres right wing Jason Pominville was injured (left leg) in Friday’s 4-3 overtime win against Philadelphia.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]


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