WORCESTER, Mass. – It’s a bit early to start talking about must-win games, but the conversation will begin soon for the Portland Pirates with a couple more performances like the one they turned in Friday night.

Worcester never trailed in a 6-4 victory at the DCU Center, snapping its three-game losing streak against the Pirates and pushing Portland three points outside the AHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs.

Curt Gogol put the Sharks in front just 28 seconds in, and John McCarthy’s goal with 36.8 seconds to play in the first period gave Worcester the lead for good.

The Sharks’ victory left them tied with Manchester for eighth place in the East, three points ahead of Portland, which has 17 games left.

“You can’t win in this league giving up six goals a night,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “We’ve been down this road before.”

Only Worcester’s final goal, a pretty drop pass from Brandon Mashinter to Tim Kennedy to finish a two-on-two with 13:06 to play, would qualify for the Sharks’ 2011-12 highlight package. Worcester bullied Portland around the net to do most of its damage, beginning with Gogol’s wrap-around.

“They’re a heavy team and they put people at the net,” Edwards said. “They put bodies at the net. They put the puck at the net. That’s how they generate offense.”

Portland had no answer for Worcester’s top line, as Kennedy and wingers Mashinter and McCarthy combined for three goals and eight points.

McCarthy’s 15th of the season late in the first period snapped a 2-2 tie.

Worcester’s outburst only added to the Pirates’ league-worst goals-against average of 3.31 and came against two goaltenders, as Justin Pogge was pulled in favor of Peter Mannino after allowing three goals in the opening 20 minutes.

“It’s one of the things you have as a coach,” Edwards said of switching goalies. “You don’t like to have to do that, but sometimes you have to.”

Portland showed some early resolve while erasing a 2-0 deficit. Brett Sterling’s tip-in from the slot and Evan Bloodoff’s wrap-around just three minutes apart tied the game.

The Pirates came within a minute of carrying that momentum into the dressing room, but McCarthy snapped a shot from the right wing off the far post to finish a three-on-two break.

Portland’s Ashton Rome potted a pair of goals in the third period, ending a lengthy scoring drought that dated back to a 3-2 loss against Connecticut on Nov. 23. Rome hadn’t played in four of the Pirates’ previous six games.

NOTES: Dean Arsene was among seven defensemen to dress for the Pirates, returning after missing five games because of an upper-body injury. Portland needed the extra help, because defenseman Nathan Oystrick limped to the dressing room with 7:08 remaining in the first period and didn’t return.


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