MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs surrendered to the Portland Pirates, 5-2, after three unanswered goals by Portland in the second period in front of 5,903 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Wednesday night.
Manchester (33-29-0-6, 72 points) falls to fourth place in the Atlantic Division with the loss. Portland (32-26-3-6, 73 points) is now in third place in the Atlantic Division after the victory.
"The score doesn't indicate the type of offensive pressure we applied tonight," commented Coach Mark Morris after the game. "Enroth was spectacular and at times we had our chances, he was making stop after stop. Our errors defensively were glaring and it's time that we start finding the back of the net to alleviate some pressure from our defensive game."
The third unanswered goal for Portland came at 7:01 in the second stanza. Center Felix Schutz was sprung on a breakaway by defensemen Mike Kostka and Kenny MacAulay. Schutz picked up the puck in the neutral zone and hustled into the Monarchs zone. With no one to beat but netminder Jonathan Bernier, Schutz made a deke and put the puck through the goaltender's pads for his 12th goal of the season.
Manchester quickly put themselves ahead early at 2:19 mark of the first frame with defenseman Tom Pressing's first tally in a Monarchs sweater. Center Gabe Gauthier dug the puck out of the right corner and sent it to the slot. Left wing Scott Parse flipped a backhander at Portland netminder Jhonas Enroth who made the initial save, but yielded a rebound. Preissing, stationed at the top of the crease, was there to put the biscuit in the basket.
The equalizer for the Pirates came at 1:52 in the second period on a power play goal. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani worked the puck along the blueline before finding left wing Colin Murphy in the right circle. Murphy fired a shot that beat Bernier over his left shoulder. Right wing Mark Mancari earned the second assist that tied the game at one apiece.
Portland netted another goal with the help of left wing Derek Whitmore at 5:11 in the second. Right wing Kyle Rank put a check on a Monarchs defenseman to free up the puck to his fellow teammate, left wing Dylan Hunter. The winger flipped the puck to Whitmore who was in position to redirect the puck up and over Bernier.
The Monarchs were able to capitalize on a miscue by the Pirates for their second goal of the night. At 3:30 in the final period, a Pirate defender slipped when attempting to clear the puck out of his zone. Center David Meckler dove for the puck in the slot and was able to pop the puck up. Left wing Richard Clune was there to pick up the loose disc and fire it past Enroth for his third of the season.
Portland took the wind out of the Monarchs' sails with their fourth tally on the night at 11:26 of the third period. Bernier misplayed the puck behind his own net and Schutz was there to intercept it. Murphy, standing alone in front of the crease, received the centering pass and easily put home the puck for his second goal of the night.
Immediately after the Portland goal, Bernier was replaced by goaltender Daniel Taylor at 11:26 of the final frame.
Left wing Mathieu Darche added an empty net goal at 18:55 with help from MacAulay to give the Pirates the 5-2 lead.
"Our two goals tonight came from our fourth line left wing and a defensive defenseman and that's pretty indicative of the fact that guys need to really take a step forward in the production department," said Morris.
Manchester went 0-for-4 with an extra attacker while Portland was 1-for-1 with the man advantage.
Bernier stopped 20-of-24 shots, taking his 20th loss, before being replaced by Taylor who halted 5-of-5 Portland shots. Enroth turned away 39-of-41 Manchester shots for his 20th victory of the year.