SYRACUSE – The Portland Pirates committed one penalty too many Saturday night, and the Syracuse Crunch made them pay for it.

Richard Panik, fresh from a three-week stint with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, scored a power-play goal 6:36 into overtime to lift the Crunch to a 4-3 AHL playoff win at War Memorial Arena.

It was the third power-play goal for Syracuse, which includes 12 players who won the Calder Cup playing for the Norfolk Admirals last season.

“You can’t expect to play the defending champions and be in the (penalty) box for 24 minutes of the hockey game,” Portland Coach Ray Edwards said. “That is a recipe for disaster.”

Game 2 of the best-of-five, first-round series is Sunday night.

Portland opened an early 2-0 lead but was unable to hold off the Crunch. The Pirates had to kill off eight Syracuse power plays in the second and third periods, including two segments when the Crunch had a two-man advantage.

“(Syracuse is) good enough,” Edwards said. “They’re going to storm anyway, but you don’t want to hand them opportunities.”

Panik’s goal came nearly three minutes after Portland defenseman Boris Valabik received a major and a game misconduct for elbowing Brett Connolly in the head.

Darian Dziurzynski, a rookie left wing, opened the scoring less than 11 minutes into the game. After circling behind the goal, Dziurzynski drove to the front of the net and stuck a wrap-around shot inside the right post.

Defenseman David Rundblad made it 2-0 with a power-play goal late in the opening period, putting in a blast from the right point.

The Pirates held a 15-11 edge in shots in the first period and did a good job of limiting the Crunch’s chances. They kept their turnovers to a minimum and often broke up Syracuse rushes in the neutral zone.

Syracuse’s best scoring chance in the first period came 13 minutes into the game when Tyler Johnson, the AHL’s most valuable player, stole the puck inside the Portland blue line during a Pirates power play and took a shot from just above the hash marks that goalie Chad Johnson was able to block.

Johnson cut into Portland’s lead seven minutes into the second period, lifting a wrist shot past Johnson from the left circle for a power-play goal. The goal came just a few seconds after a penalty on Chris Brown expired as the Pirates tried to kill off Syracuse’s two-man advantage.

Brown, a rookie who led the Pirates in scoring during the regular season with 29 goals, answered just two minutes later. He jammed the puck inside the left post to give Portland a 3-1 lead.

Syracuse capitalized on another two-man advantage later in the period, as Mark Barberio put in a shot from the high slot.

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

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