MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs comeback fell short as they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Lowell Devils at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday night. The Monarchs Care Foundation and the U.S. Marines collected over 100 large bags filled with toys from fans for Toys For Tots.
Manchester (19-8-1-2) remains in first place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with 41 points. Lowell (15-11-3-0) is tied for second in the Atlantic Division with 33 points.
“The compete level in the second and third (periods) is where we need to be with our depleted line-up,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “Our level of expectation might be a little high but our energy level was not there in the first period. We’ll learn from it and move forward.
“To change the momentum, I threw (Jeff) Zatkoff in (net) and he did a great job.”
With thirteen seconds remaining in the first period, Lowell defenseman Rob Davison slapped in his second goal of the season. Davison collected the puck from center Ben Walter at the left point and fired a slap shot that beat Monarchs netminder Jonathan Bernier. Left wing Brad Snetsinger also picked up an assist on the eventual game-winning goal which gave Lowell a 3-0 lead heading into the locker room.
The Devils put up the first goal for a 1-0 lead in the opening period at 7:43. Right wing Matt Halischuk passed the puck from behind the net to defenseman Olivier Magnan at the left face-off dot for the shot and goal. Walter also assisted on Magnan’s second goal of the season.
The second goal of the night came off Halischuk’s stick for his second tally of the season at the 11:43 mark. With traffic in front of the net, Halischuk jammed the loose puck over the goal line to double the Devils lead to 2-0. Walter and Snetsinger picked up helpers as they were all swiping at the puck in the crease.
Monarchs netminder Jeff Zatkoff replaced Bernier between the pipes following the first intermission. Bernier stopped 7-of-10 shots in the opening frame.
At 1:44 of the second period, Monarchs center Dwight King passed the puck to defenseman Patrick Mullen who carried it into the Devils blueline. Mullen left a drop pass to his trailer, left wing David Meckler, who blasted a shot near the point that tickled the twine for his sixth tally of the season and put the Monarchs on the board 3-1.
On the power play and with Zatkoff pulled for the extra attacker, center Gabe Gauthier scored his fifth goal of the season to bring the Monarchs to within one. Defenseman Alec Martinez fed the puck to center Corey Elkins who found Gauthier in the slot. Gauthier scrambled for the puck with Lowell’s defense before he was able to backhand it into the back of Lowell’s net with 1:46 remaining in the game.
Bernier (13-7-2) took the loss with seven saves on 10 shots. Zatkoff (6-2-0) stopped all 13 shots he faced in the final two periods of play. Devils goaltender Mike McKenna (9-6-0) earned his ninth win of the season stopping 24-of-26 shots.
Manchester was 1-for-6 on the power play. Lowell went 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
Notables: The Monarchs win streak ended at four games…Head Coach Mark Morris substituted his goaltenders mid-game for the first time this season…Left wing David Meckler extended his goal scoring streak (5-0=5) to three games...Left wing Dwight King extended his point streak (2-3=5) to four games...Defenseman Andrew Campbell and right wing Jon Rheault each played in their 100th professional game.