MANCHESTER, NH - Goaltender David Brown's solid relief effort made center Kurtis McLean's 15th goal of the season stand as the game-winner as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins topped the Manchester Monarchs 3-2 in front of 8,715 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday night.
Manchester (21-19-4-2) is in fifth place in the Atlantic Division with 48 points. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (26-16-0-2) is in second place in the East Division with 54 points.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took the lead for good 6:31 into the middle frame on McLean's 15th goal of the year. Following a Monarchs turnover in the defensive zone, left wing Ned Havern found the puck on his stick, flipped it across the slot to McLean, who then slid the puck under the diving glove of Monarchs goaltender Dan Cloutier. Right wing Jean-Michel Daoust tallied his second assist of the night on the go-ahead goal.
The Penguins struck one minute and 52 seconds into the game on center Chris Minard's 5-on-3 power play tally. With the Penguins gaining ground in the offensive zone, defenseman Mark Ardelan controlled the puck at the top of the left face-off circle, freeing it to Minard in the high slot to his right. Wasting no time, Minard released a shot that cleanly beat a screened Cloutier for his 18th goal of the season. Center Ryan Stone was credited with the secondary assist on the score.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took a 2-0 lead when Nathan Smith tallied his 12th marker of the season at 4:45 of the first period. Stationed in the trapezoid behind Cloutier, Smith attempted a centering feed to the front of the net that caromed off a body and past Cloutier. Smith's tally was assisted by Daoust and defenseman Alex Goligoski.
The Monarchs got on the board at 10:29 of the first period on left wing Matt Moulson's 17th goal of the year. Right wing Teddy Purcell connected with defenseman Jon Klemm in the offensive zone who dished it to center Gabe Gauthier at the right face-off circle. Gauthier wound up for a slap shot that slipped through the pads of Penguins netminder John Curry, deflecting to Moulson who was alone at the top of the crease for an easy open net goal.
Manchester got the equalizer with 53 seconds remaining in the first period on Purcell's 15th tally of the season. Curry attempted to play a puck that was chipped into the Penguins' defensive zone, but Monarchs center Brian Boyle blocked the goaltender's clearing attempt off the glass and corralled the puck, circling around the net to feed Purcell between the face-off circles for a one-timer goal. Curry's ill-timed moment of wanderlust led to his replacement by goaltender David Brown at the start of the second period.
Cloutier (3-9-0) was saddled with the loss, stopping 13 of the 16 shots he faced in his return to the Monarchs line-up. Curry went the first 20 minutes for the Penguins, stopping 3-of-5 shots. Brown (6-4-1) went the remaining 40 minutes for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, turning aside all 25 shots he faced in the victory.