The Rangers' AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, fell 4-1 in Portland on Thursday night as Pirates goaltender and former NHLer Jani Hurme made 13 third-period saves to frustrate the Pack's bid for a comeback.
Nigel Dawes had the lone Hartford goal off assists from Dwight Helminen and Colby Genoway at 15:11 of the first period to tie the game 1-1 through 20 minutes. The Pirates, however, came back with three unanswered goals over the final two periods to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Atlantic Division final series.
Hartford must win Game 6 on Sunday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland to avoid elimination. Should the Pack prevail in that game, they would enjoy home-ice advantage for Game 7 next week at the Hartford Civic Center.
In Calder Cup Playoff history, 88 best-of-seven series have been tied at 2-2; the Game 5 winner has taken the series 70 times (79.5 percent). The Wolf Pack have already bucked those odds once in these playoffs, rallying to win Games 6 and 7 from Manchester in the first round. A repeat of that performance would send them to the conference finals against the East division champion Hershey Bears.
Goaltender Chris Holt, who saw action with the Rangers this season, made 34 saves in defeat and kept the Pack's hopes alive despite heavy pressure and two power play goals by Portland. The Pirates were led by Zenon Konopka, who had two goals and an assist. Konopka ranks second in the AHL playoff scoring race, three points of the Pack's Alexandre Giroux, who was held off the scoresheet on Thursday after five straight multi-point games.
Konopka has now recorded a point in 23 straight games, dating back to the regular season.
Ryan Shannon tallied the eventual game-winner for Portland on a power play at 9:33 of the second period. Geoff Peters closed out the scoring at 2:46 of the third.
The Pirates outshot the Wolf Pack 38-28, and the teams combined for 86 penalty minutes, including 66 in the third period.