For the second time in about 20 hours, the Portland Pirates saw a third-period lead slip through their fingers, at a time of year when teams in the American Hockey League are scrambling for playoff berths.

The Pirates lost 4-3 Sunday afternoon to the Hartford Wolf Pack on a pair of goals in the third period by Ryan Graves before a crowd of 3,401 at Cross Insurance Arena.

It was the sixth straight loss for the Pirates, who fell 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night in Springfield after the Falcons forced overtime on a goal with 21.8 seconds left.

“It’s frustrating but we’re professional hockey players,” said Pirates defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. “This is our job. We’re going to face stuff like this and we’ve got to find ways to come out of this.”

Weegar’s power-play goal with five minutes left in the second gave Portland its only lead of the game at 3-2 and provided a shot of adrenaline to a team that had returned from its trip to Massachusetts at 3 a.m. Sunday on the day the clocks sprung forward one hour.

The Wolf Pack, by contrast, arrived in Maine following a Saturday matinee in Connecticut and appeared well rested, particularly in the game’s third minute when Chris Summers swooped in front to redirect a feed from Luke Adam past Portland goaltender Mike McKenna.

Both Summers and Adam are former Pirates, under the Arizona and Buffalo umbrellas, respectively.

Nevertheless, the Pirates responded with a tying goal and an 11-5 edge in shots for the period. Matt MacKenzie, called up from Manchester on Saturday, scored his first Portland goal to make it 1-1 and the Pirates killed off their only penalty.

“I certainly loved the way we responded and battled throughout the first period,” said Pirates Coach Scott Allen. “These are two teams with a lot on the line. They’re nipping at our heels right now.”

Indeed, Hartford has won more games than Portland but remains one spot below the Pirates – and currently out of a playoff berth – in the Atlantic Division standings.

Adam put Hartford back on top 2-1 early in the second before Rob Flick, following up a foray by Chase Balisy, shoveled a backhand into the net to knot the score once more.

Three minutes later, Weegar’s blast, set up by Cameron Gaunce’s second assist of the day, gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead.

It did not hold. Graves connected on a slap shot from the right point a little more than six minutes into the third to make it 3-3.

“We can’t be screening our own goalie in those situations,” Allen said.

The game-winner came midway through the period when Graves, from the left dot, beat McKenna over his glove to the near side.

“I like Mike McKenna nine times out of 10 making that save,” Allen said. “He played a solid game for us and gave us a chance.”

McKenna finished with 25 saves to 29 for Wolf Pack netminder Magnus Hellberg, who withstood a late barrage after the Pirates pulled McKenna for an extra skater with 1:49 remaining.

“We’re not going to use excuses that the bounces aren’t going our way, because you create and make your own bounces,” Allen said. “When you go into the third period with a lead, just like we did (Saturday) night, you have to be able to close teams out.”

By winning only twice in the past 12 games, the Pirates now find themselves on the playoff bubble with a month remaining in the regular season. After Sunday’s game, the Pirates would be the crossover team that faces North Division leader Toronto in the first round, the same Toronto team that embarrassed the Pirates 9-2 Friday night at CIA.

“Obviously, some things aren’t going our way,” Weegar said. “We’re kind of hurting ourselves a bit. But we’re digging in and we’re going to find a way to get out of this.”

The Pirates hit the road next weekend for consecutive games in Hartford, Bridgeport and Lehigh Valley.

NOTES: Forward Kyle Rau will rejoin the Pirates after a nine-game stint with the NHL Panthers. In 48 games with Portland, Rau has 17 goals and 10 assists.

“He’s a heart and soul guy,” Allen said of Rau. “That’s why he’s been up there so long. He’s a guy who plays with a ton of courage.”