PORTLAND – Just about everyone was watching Marvin Degon.
The Hartford defenseman had been plowed into the Portland Pirates’ bench, and fans and players gawked as he tried to free himself.
Greg Moore wasn’t watching though. He was looking for the puck. The Lisbon native and former University of Maine Black Bear skated to the front of the net and was there for the tip as the Wolf Pack caught the Pirate defense unaware.
“I wasn’t distracted,” said Moore. “I had transition going the other way. I didn’t actually see what had happened to Degon over by the bench. They said on our bench that they were even distracted watching that.”
Moore’s goal put Hartford in the lead for good as the Wolf Pack added a Lauri Korpikoski tally to earn a 4-2 victory over the Pirates in front of 3,273 on Sunday.
The win evened the best-of-seven Calder Cup playoff series at two games apiece.
“It felt really good to get that goal in front of family and friends,” said Moore. “For it to be the game-winner, it obviously has a little more meaning to it. It definitely felt good to have people see me play and for that experience.”
Portland outshot Hartford 43-23, but the Pirates couldn’t bury their chances. Hartford goaltender Chris Holt kept his team in the game and two late goals in the second period rallied the Wolf Pack.
“He had a great game,” Pirates coach Kevin Dineen said of Holt. “I think he’s played stronger as the series has gone on. He takes up a lot of net and we have to solve that. We generated a lot of scoring chances. That could have been the difference in the game tonight, the goaltending.”
Moore got the game-winner with 7:23 remaining in the second. Chad Wiseman fired a shot from the left circle, and Moore was staked out in front for the redirection. Moore admits he was a little nervous playing Saturday, but was more comfortable Sunday.
“I think this was his best game in the playoffs,” said Hartford assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson. “Maybe he was a little nervous coming back home, but he took the bull by the horns.”
Hartford made it 4-2 at 4:16 of the third. Korpikoski put in a loose puck in front to provide the two-goal cushion. It was the second power goal of the night for Hartford, fifth in the last two games.
“Winning games in the playoffs is goaltending and special teams,” said Samuelsson. “Chris Holt was outstanding. He really stole the game for us. I think there were parts of the game when we were outplayed by the Pirates. They played maybe their best game of the series so far, and he kept making save after save.”
Portland produced a strong opening period, outshooting the Pack 12-8, but still fell behind 1-0. Hartford scored its seventh power play goal of the series with 5:48 left. Off a rare Hartford face-off, Daniel Girardi wristed a shot from the high slot inside the left post.
Hartford was outshot 10-2 to start the second period, and Portland popped in a pair for a 2-1 lead.
Portland tied the game at 3:37 of the second. Bruno St. Jacques scored his second in as many nights. Aaron Gavey fed him a pass from behind the net for the shot from the high slot.
The Pirates took the lead at 8:30 when Pierre Parenteau poked in a loose puck in front. Curtis Glencross won possession behind the net and fed Zenon Konopka to the left of the net. He centered for Parenteau out front.
Though Hartford managed just nine shots in the period, it still scored twice and had three goals on its first 14 shots.The Wolf Pack tied the game, 2-2 with 9:48 left in the period while skating four-on-four. Alexandre Giroux’s shot was redirected in front by Jarkko Immonen.
“We have to regroup for a day and recharge the batteries and get back at it,” said Dineen.