Andreas Salomonsson score with four seconds left to earn Portland a point.

PORTLAND — It pretty much had to be perfect.

With the clock winding down and the window of opportunity closing fast, there wasn’t a whole lot of margin for error.

With the Albany goaltender racing across the crease to seal off the open right corner, Andreas Salomonsson had a brief glimpse of the open net and that was all he needed. His one-timer from the right circle beat Ari Ahonen with four seconds left in regulation to give the Portland Pirates a 4-4 tie.

“He passed me almost the same pass earlier and I missed it,” said Salomonsson of the Peter Ferraro diagonal pass from the left point. “I had one practice shot and the other one went in.”

Portland, 0-2-3 in its last five, had built a 3-1 lead with quick goals from Trent Whitfield and Josef Boumedienne in the second, only to watch the lead vanish equally as fast.

“It was a good point but it’s sort of empty,” said Pirates coach Tim Army. “We should have won the game. The last two games we should have won.”

The Pirates could have clinched a playoff spot with a win and Saint John’s loss Saturday. Instead, Portland got a point but teams like Worcester and Albany managed to keep pace, tightening the race for the six-through-10 spots in the Eastern Conference.

“We’ve got to finish the game,” said Army. “I’m proud of the way we were able to pull it out in the end, especially after not getting much going but we’ve got to be a more diligent than that.”

The turning point may have come with just 19 seconds left in the second. With Portland up 3-1 after two goals in 1:17, a Steve Kariya backhander snuck through to give Albany life.

“That changed the tempo of the game,” said Army. “You’ve got to close the period out there. If we come into the third period up 3-1, I think we close the game out.”

Instead, the River Rats, got a Craig Darby power play goal at 2:26 and a Michael Rupp shot in transition from the wing and Albany was up 4-3 with 16:21 left.

“We just got sloppy everywhere on the ice,” said Salomonsson. “They had a couple good chances and they scored. You can’t get sloppy in a game like this.”

Portland struggled to produce much offense in the third managing just three shots through the first 16 minutes.

They had just five total in the third but the fifth one found the net.

In overtime, the Pirates had a flurry of chances.

Peter Ferraro had a steal and a blast that went wide. Josef Boumedienne and Salomonsson had a couple of near misses.

“Boomer had a chance and I had a couple of shots,” said Salomonsson. “It’s a shame we couldn’t win the game.”

As has been the trend of late, the Pirates fell behind early.

Just 2:40 into the game, Albany took the lead. After a sprawling save by Pirate goaltender Rastislav Stana, Darby was there at the left post to pop in the rebound.

After a slow start, the Pirates came to life late in the period and tied it with 1:37 left. Peter Ferraro threw the puck toward the net where his brother was cutting through the crease. Chris Ferraro redirected the centering pass into the net for his 18th of the season.

Stana kept Portland in the game in the second as Albany outshot the Pirates 17-7 and 9-2 in the first seven minutes.

Stana stopped a Stephen Guolla tip attempt on a River Rat power play.

Portland surged ahead with two quick goals late in the period. Whitfield banged in a rebound of a Colin Forbes shot for his 27th of the year with 7:44 left. Then just 1:17 later, on the power play, Boumedienne blasted a shot from the point that hit the top of the net for his 10th with 6:27 left.

“We were up 3-1 with :20 left,” said Salomonsson. “We should be able to close the game right there.”

PIRATES NOTES: The Pirates magic number for clinching a playoff spot is four — any combination of wins or ties and losses by the Saint John Flames totaling four points secures a postseason spot.



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