LEWISTON — Three times, the Portland Pirates have scored first in a game this season.

And three times — for varying reasons — they’ve suffered a second-period swoon that ultimately resulted in a loss.

In the most recent example, the Hartford Wolfpack scored three goals in the middle frame to twice rally from a one-goal deficit and Cam Talbot stopped 39 shots to earn a 3-2 victory over the Pirates in front of 2,973 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Saturday.

“It’s just happening right now, we’ve had a couple bad periods in the second,” Pirates coach Ray Edwards said. “I don’t think there’s anything you do differently. It’s just a focus thing.”

The loss gives the Pirates an 0-2-0-1 start to the 2013-14 campaign. The most recent season during which the Pirates went four games without a loss out of the gate was in 2003-04, when they went 0-4.

But Saturday’s loss wasn’t for lack of effort. The Pirates unleashed 41 shots on goal, and for the better part of the first and third periods controlled play and had offensive chances.

And Talbot was strong when he needed to be.

“We had plenty of opportunities to tie or go ahead,” Edwards said. “I think we had over 20 scoring chances. It’s one of those things this year that we’re having trouble scoring, but we’re getting the opportunities to score. I’m happy with how hard we’re working. I like our compete level. That was a fast game. Our execution is a little off and hopefully with some more games we’ll get some more rhythm to our game and our execution will get better.”

Mark Visentin was equally strong for most of the game on the other end for the Pirates, stopping 35 on the night. But a few missteps were all it took for Hartford to cash in.

The Wolfpack secured win No. 5 on the season with a goal at the 13:24 mark of the second period. Danny Kristo emerged from a scrum of eight players precipitated by a collapsing group of defenders and forwards that pinned Visentin at the top of the crease. Kristo followed the puck from the scrum as it squirted out to the right side and lofted it past the rest of the players and into the cage.

“Their big line was out there and we got running around,” Edwards said. “It was 50 shots for a dollar type of thing. We had guys flopping all over the place. It was Hudson Bay rules at that point.”

Hartford is now 5-0-0-1 this season.

It didn’t take long for the fists to start flying Saturday. Less than two minutes into the contest, the Pirates’Kyle Hagel and Hartford’s Michael Haley dropped the gloves near the corner by the Pirates’ locker room. They traded several punches before officials separated them against the corner glass.

Gilbert Brulé earned his first goal in a Pirates uniform late in the first period, capping a period of back-and-forth action during which both goalies were tested, but neither flinched.

Brulé’s goal was opportunistic. Talbot saved an earlier chance off the stick of Brandon Yip, but the puck squirted behind the cage. Yip gathered the puck behind the net, pivoted to his forehand and snapped a shot from the low right circle on net. The puck ricocheted off Talbot’s pads to Brulé, who wristed it past the Hartford keeper high glove for the goal.

The Pirates escaped a penalty immediately after the goal. Officials called defenseman Daine Todd for interference and the Pirates were temporarily shorthanded. But the Wolfpack’s Aaron Johnson crosschecked a Pirates skater from behind to even things up 4-on-4.

Hartford snuck one past Visentin just 15 seconds into the second period. Defenseman Conor Allen pinched low and fired a sharp-angle shot toward the cage. It caught the Pirates’ keeper just right and banked into the cage.

“That’s a tough goal to give up,” Edwards said. “Visentin played well during the game tonight, but that was a tough one.”

The deadlock was short-lived, though, as Andy Miele picked up a Yip dangle where he left off after meeting a defender and rifled a wrister high blocker past Talbot, reestablishing for the home team a one-goal advantage.

“I thought we did a good job of getting the momentum back. I think we had plenty of opportunities,” Edwards said.

Haley netted his first of the season at 9:11 of the middle frame, though, crashing the cage on a Shawn O’Donnell shot and depositing the rebound past Visentin.

There will be no rest for the weary, as the Pirates will play their first road contest of the year at Worcester on Sunday evening.


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