First line of offense; Mashinter, McCarthy, Kennedy provide spark.
WORCESTER - The Sharks' 6-4 victory over Portland here last night was a coach's nightmare, but a fan's dream - the kind of anything-can-happen game that used to be norm in the days before King Plus-Minus reigned supreme.
Worcester scored early and often in holding off the Pirates, who never led but also never fell hopelessly behind. Curt Gogol, Brandon Mashinter, John McCarthy, Tony Lucia, Nathan Moon and Tim Kennedy had the Sharks goals as Worcester tied its season high for goals in a game.
The victory allowed Worcester to remain tied with Manchester for eighth place in the Eastern Conference - the final playoff spot. The Sharks have played three fewer games than the Monarchs, though, and are one point behind seventh-place Albany, and have one game in hand on the Devils.
Once again, Worcester was propelled offensively by the line of Mashinter, McCarthy and Kennedy. For about the third time this season, the Sharks have found a No. 1 line. Call-ups always wrecked things earlier in the year, but this unit could stay together through the end of the season.
Kennedy and McCarthy were both 1-2-3 for the night and Mashinter was 1-1-2. He has a five-game point streak and has scored five goals in the last seven games.
"That line has been carrying us," coach Roy Sommer said, "but we need some secondary scoring if we're gonna win, and we got some of that tonight."
Gogol's goal 28 seconds after the opening faceoff got the Sharks going. Then Mashinter banged one in at 12:43 to make it 2-0. It looked like Worcester might run away with it, but Portland quickly came back with two of its own from Brett Sterling and Evan Bloodoff and it was tied going into the final three minutes of the period.
At 17:17, Matt Pelech caught Ryan Duncan with his head down and flattened him in his own zone, drawing a penalty. Worcester killed it nicely, and just as Pelech accelerated out of the penalty box, McCarthy and Kennedy broke through the neutral zone.
Pelech was just able to put on the brakes and stay onside along the left boards, allowing McCarthy to finish off the break with a 30-foot wrist shot. That made it 3-2 with 37 seconds left in the period.
"When you're in the box and see a play like that, you're always hoping," Pelech said, "and I sit in the box often enough."
"That was a great stretch," McCarthy said.
Lucia made it 4-2 at 1:49 of the second period on the night's strangest goal, which is saying something since there were a few of them. He was flat on the ice next to the Portland net and the puck was lying free just outside the goal line.
Lucia kicked it, but before it went in, it bounced off a Pirates player, so it counted.
In the third period, former Shark Ashton Rome scored twice, his first goals since November, and Kennedy once.
Thanks to a couple of referee Jamie Koharkski specials, the Sharks wound up killing penalties until the final buzzer - they were three men down for a time - but goalie Tyson Sexsmith was excellent.
NAME: WORCESTER SHARKS
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/STEVE LANAVA
CUTLINE: Worcester's Matt Pelech tussles with Portland's Brett Hextall. A photo slideshow from the game is available at www.telegram.com/sports.