PROVIDENCE, RI ? In a back-and-forth game, the Manchester Monarchs ended up on the short end as the Providence Bruins took the game, 3-2, in front of 6,851 fans at the Dunkin' Donuts Center on Sunday evening.
Manchester (36-33-0-8, 80 points) is in fifth place in the Atlantic Division. Providence (41-27-2-6, 90 points) is in second place in the Atlantic Division.
"The guys played hard and competed every step of the way," said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. "I'm proud of our effort, unfortunately we found ourselves behind the eight ball. At the beginning of the game, we were called with two men in the box and they executed on a perfect 5-on-3 power play. The game went back-and-forth and they were able to capitalize on some odd man rushes."
Center Vladimir Sobotka scored his 19th goal of the season to give the Bruins the 3-2 win. Right wing Brad Marchand fed the puck up the ice to Sobotka who carried it into the Monarchs zone with only defenseman Tom Preissing to beat. Just inside the point, Sobotka let off a slap shot that beat goaltender Daniel Taylor on his stick side. Center Zach Hamill assisted on the game-winning goal.
The Bruins struck first with right wing Mikko Lehtonen's first of two goals on the night at 3:40 of the opening period. Referee Chris Ciamaga called Monarchs defenseman Drew Bagnall and center Marty Murray for two minor penalties at 2:58, giving Providence at two-man advantage. Cycling the puck deep in the Monarchs zone, center Martin St. Pierre sent the puck from the right face-off circle to Sobotka between the hash marks who then sent it over to Lehtonen on the left doorstep. The right winger one-timed the pass into the open net for his 26th goal of the season.
At 8:17 of the first frame, Marchand was awarded a penalty shot as he was hooked by Preissing during a breakaway. As he skated toward Taylor, Marchand fanned on the shot and the puck trickled in on the netminder for the save.
The Monarchs tied the game at 11:05 of the first period as right wing Trevor Lewis scored his 18th tally of the season. Defenseman Joe Piskula sent the puck deep in the Bruins zone. Murray picked it up in the left corner and found Lewis in the slot for a quick one-timer into the top of the net behind goaltender Kevin Nastiuk.
Lehtonen gave Providence their lead back at 15:56 of the second period with his 27th goal of the season. Center Dan Ryder carried the puck into Manchester's zone, skating next to Lehtonen. When the pair reached the right face-off circle, Lehtonen took the puck and snapped a wrist shot past Taylor for the 2-1 advantage. Defenseman Ryan Stokes assisted on the go-ahead goal.
Murray brought the game to a 2-2 tie at 5:15 of the final frame with his 15th tally of the season. Piskula fired a slap shot from the right point that traveled through traffic and Murray redirected the puck past Nastiuk. Lewis earned his second point of the game with an assist on Murray's goal.
"We're not going to lie down; we're not going to go away," explained Morris on their push for the playoffs. "Our guys are competing as hard as they can. Due to the circumstances we are up against, we're doing everything we can to be in the playoff hunt."
Taylor (7-3-2) took his third loss of the season stopping 30-of-33 shots. Nastiuk (1-2-0) earned his first win of the season with 26 saves.
Manchester went 0-for-2 on the power play. Providence was 1-for-3 with the man advantage.