LEWISTON — Jordan Martinook looked to the skies, bent over at his waist with his stick on his thighs, and hung his head. He coasted in a loop from near the Hartford cage and back toward the Portland Pirates’ bench.
His teammates were already filing toward the dressing room, their heads bent like Martinook’s, in an all-too-familiar pose of dejection.
For the fourth time in as many games the Pirates let a third-period lead slip through their fingers.
Jesper Fast beat Louis Domingue with 3:30 to play in the third period — Hartford’s fourth consecutive goal — as the Wolf Pack compounded the Pirates’ misery in a 4-3 win in front of an announced crowd of 1,358 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Tuesday.
“It’s frustrating, boy, I’ll tell you,” Portland coach Ray Edwards said. “I’ve never been through a stretch like this where we’ve been leading three games in a row going into the third period and we haven’t been able to find a way to close it out. The positive is, we’re leading going into the third. The negative is, we’re not finding a way to win the game, that’s obviously a concern.”
The loss is the fourth in a row for the Pirates, and ninth in their past 12 games.
“Morale is not good right now,” Edwards said. “We haven’t been winning a lot of games, we’ve lost tough games lately, so no, the morale is not good. But what we have to do is find the positive and find a way to work through it.”
The crowd at the Colisee is suffering along with the team’s recent swoon. Tuesday’s announced attendance was generous given the actual number of fans in attendance.
“There’s no energy in this building. There’s no atmosphere,” Edwards said. “There’s no excitement. That’s not why we lose three games in a row, but there’s nothing to kind of help you to get going when the going gets tough. I’m not saying that’s an excuse, it just adds to the frustration, I guess.”
The Wolf Pack have now won two consecutive games and have passed the Pirates at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Hartford now sits in 14th position, with the Pirates in the 15th and final position.
Entering the third period trailing by a goal, the Wolf Pack roared back with goals from Darrell Powe at 12:42, and from Jesper Fast at 16:30. Fast’s goal marked the first time all night Hartford held a lead.
“The third was kind of an ugly period,” Edwards said. “It was 7-6 in shots, but they had two scoring chances, and they went in.
“We had the puck in their zone for a minute, then they come right down and score,” Edwards continued. “That’s just the way it’s going for us right now. We had a chance, their goalie made a save, they come down, we don’t make a save.”
Things started well for Portland. Lucas Lessio snapped a scoreless tie at 8:50 of the first when a dart of an outlet pass from David Rundblad found the speedy forward at the Wolf Pack’s blue line. Lessio split the defense and bore down on David LeNeveau, deking first to the forehand then to the backhand before ultimately pulling the puck back to the left and sliding it past the prone keeper.
Andy Miele made it 2-0 in Portland’s favor at 12:25 of the first. Slipping behind the defense, he gathered a pass from Tobias Rieder, walked in on LeNeveau and picked the top glove-hand corner with a shot from just two feet away from the goalmouth.
Rostislav Klesla made it 3-0 for the home team at 18:01 on a wrister from the center of the high slot. The shot clipped LeNeveau in the catching glove and flipped into the cage.
Conor Allen put the Wolf Pack on the board at 5:45 of the second on the team’s second power play opportunity of the frame. His shot, on a pass from Marek Hrivik, tipped off something in a crowd in front of goalie Louis Domingue and deflected into the net.
Andrew Yogan drew the Wolf Pack within one at 9:32 of the second with a clean wrister from the left circle that eluded Domingue.
“In the second period, we started getting away from things we had success with in the first,” Edwards said. “We turned more pucks over, we took more penalties, and it gave them momentum.”
The Pirates skate again at the Colisee on Thursday, in a game originally scheduled for Friday, against the Worcester Sharks. Puck drop for that game is slated for 7 p.m.