Corban Knight said he felt a little rusty Wednesday night, not quite up to speed. Which put him in perfect position for what turned out to be the winning goal.

Trailing a two-on-one rush, Knight received a sweet pass from John McFarland and swatted it into the net to break a tie and send the Portland Pirates to a 5-1 victory over Springfield at Cross Insurance Arena.

“Just being in the room with the guys and being a part of that camaraderie again was nice,” said Knight, whose goal late in the first period gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead. “I’m definitely glad to be back.”

Knight injured his back in an October scrimmage and needed surgery. He missed 20 games, began practicing two weeks ago and made his Pirates debut Wednesday night before a crowd announced as 1,906.

“His first two periods were real strong,” said Pirates Coach Tom Rowe, “then the conditioning caught up to him a little bit in the third, but he did a great job.”

Rocco Grimaldi added two goals and two assists, and Rob Schremp and Mike Matheson also scored as the Pirates (10-10-1) hit .500 – winning for the third time in a four-game stretch that has seen them earn seven of a possible eight points.

Sam Britain made 28 saves to improve to 4-3. The goal he allowed came on a power play.

It was the third meeting between the Pirates and Springfield. None have been close. The Falcons romped (6-1) here early last month and the Pirates returned the favor (6-2) in late November on the road.

“The goals going in early gave the guys some confidence,” Rowe said, “but that was definitely a solid 60 minutes.”

Knight’s goal was set up by the rush from McFarland and Brett Olson, each of whom was credited with an assist.

Grimaldi had given Portland a 1-0 lead five minutes into the game on a backhand from the slot after aggressive forechecking by Schremp and Garrett Wilson.

The Pirates broke it open with three goals in the second. Shane Harper skated behind the Springfield net before spotting Matheson near the top of the left circle to make it 3-1.

Grimaldi then stripped a stumbling defender and walked in alone for his second goal, third of the year.

“That’s his game,” Rowe said. “He’s got to be tenacious and be a pain in the neck to play against because of his quickness. He’s not going to overpower guys, but he’s going to strip them from behind and pressure them into turnovers.”

After an 0-of-18 drought on the power play, the Pirates converted five seconds into their third man-advantage when Knight drew a face-off to Grimaldi, who sent a deflected pass across the middle to Schremp, who scored his ninth of the season.

“We’re .500 now but that’s not where we want to be,” Grimaldi said. “If we continue to stick to this type of game and work hard and get our sticks on pucks, I think we’re going to be a really good team.”

The Pirates return Friday night against visiting Bridgeport, which saw a 1-0 lead dissolve into a 2-1 Portland victory in the final minute of their last meeting in Connecticut.