PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Portland Pirates said they weren’t keeping an eye on the out-of-town scores Sunday as they finished their regular season against the Providence Bruins, though they needed help to claim one of the two remaining playoff berths in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.

Not only did the Pirates have to beat Providence, but they also needed a loss by either Syracuse or Manchester.

None of that happened.

Providence rallied in the third period for a 3-2 win before a crowd 10,198 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. As it turned out, the outcome didn’t matter for the Pirates, because Syracuse and Manchester both won to take the last two playoff spots.

“For two periods, we played fantastic,” Portland Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said, “but in the third period we played like we were beaten, and, unfortunately, we got beaten. It would have been kind of nice to win.”

Portland began the day tied for eighth place with Manchester, one point behind Syracuse. Because Manchester held the tiebreaker over Portland — non-shootout wins — the Pirates weren’t in control of their playoff destiny.

Manchester’s game started an hour earlier than the Pirates-Bruins contest, and the Monarchs finished their 4-2 home-ice win against the St. John’s Ice Caps while the Pirates were still in the second period.

Meanwhile, at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., Syracuse finished a 2-1 victory at about the same time as Providence defenseman Colby Cohen scored on a shot from center point to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead midway through the third period.

The Portland players supposedly knew nothing about the other games. Edwards said the coaching staff avoided telling the players what was happening elsewhere.

“We tried to keep it as quiet as we could because we wanted to focus on us,” he said.

The players said they were unaware Manchester and Syracuse had clinched playoff berths until after the game.

“With about 30 seconds left in the game, the guys on the bench started hearing rumors,” Portland captain Dean Arsene said, “but we didn’t know for sure until we were in the locker room after the game.”

Portland’s Marc-Antoine Pouliot opened the scoring with his 12th goal of the season less than two minutes into the second period, during the Pirates’ second power play of the game.

Ryan Spooner made it 1-1 with about six minutes left in the period when he tipped in a shot from the slot for his first AHL goal. But defenseman Nick Ross sent Portland back into the lead in the final minute, scoring his fifth goal while the teams were skating four-on-four.

Maxime Sauve tied it on a rebound six minutes into the third.

“The way we played the third period, it looked like the guys knew (we were out of the playoffs),” Edwards said. “All of a sudden, their body language was very poor. It looked like they took a punch in the guts and they stopped playing.”

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

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