PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Abysmal.



Take your pick, but each of those adjectives is appropriate when describing the Portland Pirates’ performance Sunday against the Providence Bruins.

Craig Cunningham recorded a hat trick and Justin Florik contributed two goals and an assist as the Bruins routed Portland 7-1 before a Dunkin’ Donuts Center crowd of 9,947.

The loss dropped Portland four points behind Providence in the race for the Atlantic Division title.

Considering that the division champions in each conference are awarded the first three seeds for the Calder Cup playoffs, the Pirates can’t deliver similar performances, nor can they fall so far behind Providence that they don’t have enough games to make up the difference.

“It means a lot,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said of the importance of winning a division title. “It would be nice to have home-ice advantage. You guarantee yourself that by winning the division.

“Hopefully, this is a blip on our radar screen and we find a way Tuesday (at Connecticut) to be a lot better and start pushing again for the division (title).”

Portland converted 3 of 4 power-play opportunities last Tuesday in a 6-3 victory over Providence at home. But the Pirates were 0 for 5 in Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Worcester and 0 for 5 again on Sunday.

“That’s not good enough,” Edwards said. “Everybody that’s playing on (the power play), the execution’s poor. The work ethic’s poor. Guys are doing their own thing.

“It’s Game 55. They know what we want to do on it. They know the breakout. They know how we want to set up. When you do your own thing, it puts the rest of the guys in a tough spot. We have too many guys doing their own thing, and that’s what happens.”

Florik gave Providence a 1-0 lead at 7:23 of the first when he deflected a Kevan Miller shot past rookie Mike Lee (23 saves).

Then, while Portland was on a power play, Christian Hanson stole the puck in the Pirates’ zone and beat Lee between the pads for a short-handed goal that made it 2-0.

Cunningham’s power-play goal at 2:30 of the second made it 3-0. The Pirates got one back when Jordan Martinook flipped the rebound of a Phil Lane shot past Niklas Svedberg (27 saves).

The Pirates had four power plays in the first period but couldn’t convert.

“I thought we came out with the right mind-set,” Edwards said. “We wanted to be disciplined. They took some penalties but, unfortunately, our power play wasn’t good enough tonight.

“Not only do we not get anything, but we give up a short-handed goal and they get all the momentum.”

Providence added four goals in the third period, including a power-play goal by Jordan Caron.

“We didn’t capitalize early on our power plays,” Martinook said. “Our power play was really good the last game against these guys.

“Going into the third it’s a 3-1 game and we still feel like we have a chance to win the game, but we let it get away from us.”