LOWELL, MA – Goaltender Mike McKenna stopped all 27 shots as the Lowell Devils blanked the Manchester Monarchs, 5-0, at the Tsongas Arena on Friday night.
Manchester (31-19-2-5) is tied for second place with the Portland Pirates (31-16-5-2) in the Atlantic Division with 69 points. Lowell (30-21-4-3) ranks fourth in the Atlantic Division with 67 points.
“Tonight was a disappointing loss,” said Head Coach Mark Morris. “We were outplayed in every facet of the game. We got behind in the first shift and going forward, we never hit stride. It was a difficult night. We didn’t have much puck luck. We look forward to bouncing back tomorrow with a more complete effort.”
The first of many goals came only 35 seconds into the game when left wing Alexander Vasyunov scored his 13th goal of the season. Right wing Nick Palmieri shot the puck off the end boards and Vasyunov was there to pick up the rebound and beat Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Bernier
. Center Brad Mills earned an assist on the play.
The Devils doubled their lead at 4:06 of the opening frame with right wing Stephen Gionta’s 11th tally of the season. Defenseman Rob Davison shot the puck from just inside the left point and Gionta was able to get his stick on it to redirect it past Bernier and into the net. Left wing Louis Robitaille assisted on the second goal of the night.
Lowell picked up three consecutive power play goals starting with defenseman Cory Murphy’s second goal of the season at 8:32 of the second period. Cycling the puck in the Monarchs zone, Murphy’s initial shot was saved by Bernier and the rebound found its way to the left wing boards. Defenseman Matt Taormina collected the loose puck and sent it back to Murphy in the high slot. Murphy controlled the puck and fired a slap shot into the back of the net to advance the Devils lead to 3-0. Center Ben Walter picked up his first of three points on the night with an assist.
Referee David Banfield waved off a Devils goal at 16:18 of the second period as the Lowell player kicked the puck over the goal line.
Taormina picked up a power play goal of his own at 19:20 of the middle stanza to send both teams to the locker rooms with Lowell leading 4-0 after two periods. With Monarchs right wing Kevin Westgarth
in the penalty box for hooking, center Michael Swift found Taormina who was able to put the puck past Bernier for his ninth tally of the season. Walter picked up his second assist of the night on the Devils fourth goal of the game.
Walter finished off the Monarchs with his 16th goal of the season at 5:04 of the third period. Skating into the Monarchs zone along the left wing, Walter turned and flipped in a backhand shot from the bottom of the left face-off circle. The puck bounced off Monarchs defenseman Joe Piskula stick and into the net. Swift and Taormina assisted on the final goal of the game.
Bernier (23-15-5) took his 15th loss of the season, stopping 31 out of 36 shots. McKenna (17-10-3) earned his 17th win of the season, stopping all 27 shots he faced from the Monarchs for his third shutout of the season.
Manchester was 0-for-4 on the power play. Lowell went 3-for-7 with the man advantage.
Notables: Manchester was shutout for the fourth time this season, 32nd all-time…The Monarchs have lost by a five-goal margin only one other time this season, a 6-1 loss to Portland at the Cumberland County Civic Center on February 2.