HARTFORD, CT – The Manchester Monarchs scored three goals in the third period but their comeback fell short as the Hartford Wolf Pack skated away with a 5-4 win in front of 7,846 fans at the Hartford Civic Center on Saturday night.
Manchester (43-21-6-1) is leading the Atlantic Division with 93 points. Hartford (44-26-3-0) is ranked second in the Atlantic Division with 91 points.
Right wing Hugh Jessiman attacked first with his seventh goal of the season, unassisted at 4:18 of the first period. Jessiman collected the puck along the right wing boards and carried it into the Monarchs zone with a two-on-one breakaway. Ripping the puck past goaltender Barry Brust on the glove side, Jessiman gave the Wolf Pack a 1-0 lead.
The Monarchs answered back with a 5-on-3 power play at 8:51 of the opening frame. Cycling the puck, center Marty Murray sent it to defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky at the right point. Tverdovsky forwarded the pass to defenseman Peter Harrold at the left point for the one-timer to beat netminder Al Montoya on the glove side for his sixth goal of the season.
The Wolf Pack came out firing in the second period with three goals, two on the power play, in a span of six minutes and 22 seconds. Left wing Dane Byers scored his 16th and 17th goals of the season just over a minute apart. Hartford skated on a 5-on-3 power play as center Brandon Dubinsky collected the puck along the end red line from defenseman Bryce Lampman. Dubinsky threw the puck on net and Monarchs defenseman Brendan Buckley fell on it in the crease. Byers poked at the puck under Buckley and jammed it past Brust for his 16th tally at 2:24 of the second period.
Byers collected his second of the night at 3:28 of the middle stanza as he connected with a bouncing puck. Brust came out of the net as the puck flew high in the air. In a stick battle between Byers and Brust, Byers won and chopped the puck into the open net.
Left wing Nigel Dawes added his 23rd goal of the season at 8:46 of the second period. Dawes collected the puck at the right point and fired a slap shot past Brust on his blocker side. Defensemen Hannu Pikkarainen and Marvin Degon assisted on the goal to give Hartford a 4-1 lead.
Byers completed his hat trick with an unassisted shorthanded goal at 17:02 of the middle frame by stealing the puck in the neutral zone, skating down the right wing boards and flipped a wrist shot on net. Brust got a piece of the puck as it snuck under his right arm and trickled over the goal line.
Netminder Jason LaBarbera replaced Brust for the third period. Brust finished the night with 30 saves on 35 shots in 40 minutes of playing time.
The Monarchs started a comeback in the third period as center Gabe Gauthier scored his 14th goal of the season at the 49-second mark of the final frame. Gauthier collected the puck along the left boards and tossed a wrist shot on net that beat Montoya on the short side to bring the score to 5-2. Buckley and left wing Matt Moulson earned assists on the Monarchs second tally of the night.
Left wing Noah Clarke met the Monarchs in Hartford after being sent down by the parent Los Angeles Kings and he scored his 22nd goal of the season at 3:30 of the third period. Murray stole the puck in the right corner and passed it to the front of the net as Clarke streaked through the crease and tipped it past Montoya to continue Manchester's comeback.
Right wing Tim Jackman brought his team to within one goal at 8:42 of the final stanza with his 16th tally of the season. Defenseman Doug Nolan pushed the puck up to Murray as he broke in on Montoya with Jackman to his right for a two-on-one breakaway. Murrary skated down the left side and fed the puck to Jackman for the one-timer over Montoya and a 5-4 game.
Brust took the loss and LaBarbera stopped all 11 shots he faced. Montoya earned the win with 24 saves.
Manchester went 1-for-6 on the power play. Hartford was 2-for-9 with the man advantage.