PORTLAND, ME – Left wing Colin Murphy scored a 1-2-3 natural hat trick to jump start his Portland Pirates to a 5-2 win over the Manchester Monarchs in front of 6,505 fans at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday night.
Manchester (34-31-0-8, 76 points) dropped to fourth place in the Atlantic Division. Portland (34-29-3-6, 77 points) moved into third place in the Atlantic Division.
"We had a real strong first period but a giveaway and a momentary mental lapse put us down 2-0 in the second," said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. "We continued to struggle from that point forward. About midpoint in the third, we applied a lot of pressure. The last 10 minutes of the game, we had them back on their heels. We were playing wide open hockey that gave them an odd man rush that put the game out of reach."
The natural hat trick was completed at 4:26 of the final stanza. Center Marek Zagrapan poked the puck into the Monarchs zone to right wing Mark Mancari at the right point. Mancari took a couple of steps before snapping a shot on net. Monarchs' netminder Jonathan Bernier made the save but Murphy was on the doorstep to bury the rebound and send the hats flying from the stands.
The scoreless first period produced some entertainment for the fans when a fisticuffs broke out between Monarchs left wing Richard Clune and Pirates defenseman Geoff Waugh. Clune was credited with the take down.
The Colin Murphy Show began at 2:17 of the second period when he tallied his eighth goal of the season. Zagrapan battled with Monarchs center Justin Azevedo along the left wing boards. Azevedo attempted to clear the puck but his pass landed on the stick of Murphy just above the right face-off circle. The winger skated down the right wing, cut toward the net and flipped a backhander around Bernier. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani assisted on the first goal of the game.
Murphy's second tally of the night tickled the twine as his teammate, left wing Nathan Gerbe, sat in the penalty box for hooking. Off the face-off in the Monarchs zone, Murphy won the draw and picked up the loose puck in the neutral zone. He carried the puck down the left wing and then headed toward the net once he reached the face-off circle. Side-stepping Monarchs defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov, Murphy sent another backhander past Bernier for his ninth goal of the season at 7:31 of the middle frame for his first shorthanded goal of the season.
Just before the two teams headed to the locker room, Azevedo placed a clean, open-ice hit on Portland's center Tim Kennedy. Not liking the hit, the two non-enforcers dropped the gloves for a quick bought at 19:34 of the middle period.
Just over two minutes after Murphy completed his first hat trick of the season, Gragnani scored a power play goal to bring the score to 4-0 at 6:42 of the third period. Right wing Colton Fretter carried the puck into the Monarchs zone and found Gragnani in the high slot for a blistering shot that beat Bernier. Zagrapan picked up his third assist on the night.
Bernier was replaced by goaltender Daniel Taylor following Gragnani's ninth goal of the season.
Center Marc-Andre Cliche put the Monarchs on the scoreboard at 9:53 of the final frame. Left wing Matt Moulson dug the puck out from behind the net and sent a short pass to Cliche at the right doorstep. The second year center jammed it past netminder Jhonas Enroth for his fifth tally of the season. Right wing David Meckler assisted on Manchester's tally.
Azevedo cut Portland's lead in half with his 12th tally of the season at 13:38 of the third period. Center Marty Murray passed the puck from the right wing half wall to Azevedo in the right circle. The rookie center's shot on net was blocked by a Pirates player. The puck bounced behind the Pirates player for center Gabe Gauthier to pick up and pass to Azevedo at the bottom of the circle for a wrist shot and the goal.
The Monarchs comeback was short-lived as Gerbe netted his 26th goal of the season at 17:26 to finish the game with Portland having the 5-2 advantage. On the power play, left wing Mathieu Darche skated into the Monarchs zone at the right point and passed the puck over to Gerbe in the left face-off circle for the one-timer that beat Taylor. Kennedy also picked up an assist on the final goal.
"It's been a challenge trying to find chemistry and consistency in our team with the depleted lineup," said Morris. "We have our work cut out for us from this point forward to climb back into the race and to secure a playoff spot."
Bernier (20-22-4) took his 22nd loss of the season stopping 21-of-25 shots through two and a half periods of play. Taylor (7-2-2) replaced Bernier at 6:42 of the third period and stopped 3-of-4 shots. Enroth (22-21-5) earned his 22nd victory of the season with 24 saves.
Manchester went 0-for-2 on the power play. Portland was 2-5 with the man advantage.