PORTLAND — Oliver Ekman-Larsson's penchant for gritty, offensive play as a defender cost the Portland Pirates a goal or two in the early going Friday night against Springfield.
It also won them the game.
Ekman-Larsson batted a bouncing puck through Paul Dainton's legs 19 seconds into overtime to cap a wild, 6-5 come-from-behind victory over the Falcons in front of 3,918 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The win evened the Pirates' record at 7-7-1-1, and ends a two-game slide.
"The win is nice for this young group," Portland coach Ray Edwards said. "To be able to respond against a really good team, to come back in a game like that, it showed a lot of heart."
The six goals scored by Portland were the most scored against Springfield in nearly a calendar year, though both teams' keepers struggled in the early going. Portland pulled keeper Chad Johnson after he allowed four goals, and Springfield opted for Dainton over former Portland keeper Curtis McElhinney after five Pirates goals.
"The one thing a coach has to change momentum is to change the goalie," Edwards said. "At that point, it was the right move to make, just like I thought their coach thought it was the right move, as well, and they ended up getting a goal off theirs, too."
Ekman-Larsson's winner came on a big rebound that bounced off Dainton's stick. With the puck still fluttering, the big defenseman pounded it on goal from less than 20 feet, finding a hole in Dainton's pads.
The Pirates' power play woes also ended Friday.
After their first power-play attempt failed, they were 0-for-35 with an extra skater dating back to the third period against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 10. That all changed in the second period. Portland struck on four consecutive power plays in 6:33, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 advantage.
"You asked the other day, what was wrong with the power play, and I said, 'We have to score,'" Edwards said. "We didn't do anything different; we just scored. Sometimes you have stretches like that where it's just not going in. The averages were different (Friday)."
The teams felt each other out through the first 10 minutes, but Springfield started to gain the upper hand in the second half of the opening frame. Portland defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson pinched on a scoring chance that the Falcons blocked and sent the other way. Trailing on a 3-on-1, John Moore gathered the feed from Dalton Smith and wristed the puck through Johnson's legs for a 1-0 Springfield advantage.
Following the goal, Ekman-Larsson took out his frustration on one of the celebrating Springfield players and earned a trip to the penalty box. On the ensuing power play — which turned into a 5-on-3 after yet another Portland penalty — Jonathan Audy-Marchessault fired a one-time slapshot past Johnson for a 2-0 Falcons lead.
"That first goal, we'd talked about throwing pucks out that way with this team," Edwards said. "I wasn't real happy with the play selection from Oliver there. It got us down early, and then we took the 5-on-3."
The madness that was the second period began quickly. Portland captain Alexandre Bolduc netted his 10th of the season on a rebound to the right side of the cage, temporarily cutting the Springfield lead to 2-1 just 28 seconds into the frame.
On an offensive zone faceoff 32 seconds later, the Falcons won the puck back to David Savard. His innocent-looking wrist shot was headed well high and wide, but Johnson tried to deflect it with his blocker anyway, and it ricocheted into the cage.
The Falcons threatened to run away with the game. Just 3:12 later, Cam Atkinson chased Johnson from the cage with his seventh of the season, running the visitors' lead to 4-1.
Visentin faced the firing squad immediately, and made a reactive glove save on a shot from 10 feet out to keep the Pirates within three.
"It was a big save, it kept it at 4-1, and we were able to find a way to fight back," Edwards said.
And then the Pirates' power play appeared. Stone, Bolduc and Brown combined on the next four goals — all with an extra skater — to shift the balance of the game back into Portland's favor.
Sean Collins tied it back up for the Falcons with 2:36 to play in the period, beating Visentin as he was cutting through the crease.
Portland plays its next two games on the road, Saturday in Worcester and Sunday in Manchester.