They may have lost the shutout bid late in the third period, but the Portland Pirates walked away from Wednesday night’s 4-1 American Hockey League victory over St. John’s a happy bunch.

A crowd of 3,718 at Cross Insurance Arena saw them snap a two-game losing streak in which they had allowed more goals (nine) than in their previous six games, all victories.

“It’s huge,” said center Rocco Grimaldi, “especially after going two losses in a row. Sometimes those can get out of hand. You lose one, then two, and eventually it can be five.”

Speaking of huge, the 5-foot-6 Grimaldi ran up against NHL veteran John Scott, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward voted by fans to the upcoming All-Star Game in Nashville, Tennessee, despite a career long on penalties and short on goals (five).

Late in the first period, Scott checked Grimaldi into the boards and was called for elbowing.

When the veteran argued for too long, an additional two minutes was added for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“I didn’t even know it was him at first, to be honest,” said Grimaldi, who weighs 160 pounds. “I saw him coming so I tried to pull the puck and get out of the way but he just kind of clipped me. I’m glad he didn’t get all of me or that could have been pretty bad, I’m sure.”

St. John’s managed to kill off the first two minutes of Portland’s power play but Grimaldi buried a feed from Shane Harper 15 seconds into the second penalty to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

Later in the period, Connor Brickley sent John McFarland on a breakaway and McFarland converted to make it 3-0 entering the third.

Mike McKenna’s bid for his second shutout of the season ended with 4:22 remaining when Nikita Scherbak was left alone in front. St. John’s nearly made it 3-2 on a scrum with 1:30 left but McKenna smothered the puck.

He finished with 26 saves to win for the 14th time in his last 15 starts.

“Obviously, McKenna’s been playing great hockey for us back there,” said MacKenzie Weegar. “He makes the defensemen’s jobs a little bit easier, a little more stress free.”

It was Weegar who tallied the game’s first goal, tapping in a feed from Brett Olson that zipped across the goal mouth to cap a lengthy Pirates barrage on the St. John’s net.

“It was a great shift,” Weegar said. “I think we were in there for about a minute.”

Olson dashed any comeback hopes with an empty-net goal from his own end with 17 seconds left.

NOTES: Scott, playing in his last game before heading to Nashville to captain the Pacific Division entry at the NHL All-Star Classic, also was called for interference early in the third period. Although his selection resulted from an Internet-fueled joke, he’s not without hockey savvy. “I don’t think I would be in the NHL for eight years and playing pro for 10 … if I didn’t have the skills to play,” he said. “Obviously, fighting is something I have in my tool bag but there’s a lot of tough guys around the world and they’re not in the NHL.”

Portland Coach Scott Allen has seen plenty of Scott, dating back to when Scott turned pro after finishing his college career at Michigan Tech.

“There’s been so much controversy these last few weeks with him and this whole All-Star thing,” Allen said. “I’m happy for the guy. You know what? He’s done it the hard way. It’s not easy to make a living how he’s made his living.”

Allen said he doesn’t know Scott personally but “anytime I’ve coached against him, he’s always been a respectful guy who plays the game a certain way – and he has to play the game a certain way – so for him to get the opportunity he’s getting this weekend, it’s the chance of a lifetime. Good for him.”


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