LOWELL, MA – The puck crossed the goal line seven times in the third period as the Manchester Monarchs fell to the Lowell Devils 6-3 in front of 1,679 fans at the Tsongas Arena on Sunday evening.
Manchester (8-11-2-1) is tied for fifth place in the Atlantic Division with Lowell (8-11-2-1) as each team has 19 points.
Left wing Stephen Gionta's first tally of the night proved to be the game winner at 4:26 of the third period. Gionta was positioned on the left doorstep of the goal crease. Right wing Benoit Mondou set up the assist by firing a shot on Monarchs goaltender Dan Cloutier. The rebound poked free for a backhander by Gionta for a 4-2 Devils advantage.
The first two periods of the game were fairly quietly. The first trip to the locker room left the scoreboard scoreless and the second intermission had the teams deadlocked at one. It was the seven goals in the third period that decided the contest in favor of Lowell.
Former Monarchs left wing Noah Clarke tallied his first of a two-goal night at 2:32 of the middle period to get the scoring started. Thirty-seconds into the power play with Monarchs center Matt Ryan in the box for interference, Gionta cycled the puck to Clarke at the hash marks from the end boards. Clarke blasted a wrist shot that bounced through bodies and into the back of the net. Center Petr Vrana assisted on Clarke's 10th goal of the season.
Monarchs center David Meckler and left wing Petr Kanko crashed the net, chopping at the loose puck that defenseman Joe Piskula threw on net. Meckler got the final whack as Lowell goaltender Frank Doyle could not cover up the loose puck and the Monarchs tied the game at 1-1 at 16:06 of the middle frame. Center Trevor Lewis was awarded the second assist on Meckler's sixth goal of the season.
Clarke started the third period flurry of a combined seven goals in just over 11 minutes of play. Right wing Barry Tallackson battled for the puck along the end boards and found Clarke positioned between the hash marks. Clarke's slap shot beat Cloutier for a 2-1 lead at the 50-second mark of the third period. Vrana earned his second of three assists on the night.
Devils left wing Patrick Davis extended Lowell's lead by two goals with a little assistance from Monarchs defenseman Drew Bagnall at 1:26 of the final frame. The puck came to Bagnall and in an attempt to clear, the disc bounced off of his stick and across the goal line for the Devils third tally of the night. Davis was the last Lowell player to touch the puck so he was awarded his second goal of the season with assists going to right wing Grant Marshall and left wing Mike Pandolfo.
Left wing Jeff Giuliano brought the Monarchs to within one goal with his second tally of the season at 3:09 of the third period. Battling with several Devils behind the net, Giuliano threw the puck in front that bounced off several players and past Doyle for a 3-2 game. Meckler collected his second point of the night on Giuliano's goal and defenseman Jeff Likens earned the other assist.
Following Gionta's seventh goal of the season, Tallackson tallied his fifth goal of the season at 10:35 of the last stanza. Tallackson and Vrana skated into the Monarchs zone on a 2-on-1 breakaway with only one defenseman back. Vrana carried the puck into the zone and opted for the pass to Tallackson who one-timed it past a diving Cloutier.
The Monarchs battled back with a power play goal at 11:31 of the third period. Defenseman Troy Milam cut in front of the net and backhanded a pass from right wing Teddy Purcell into the net for his fifth goal of the season. Defenseman Peter Harrold assisted on Milam's goal to bring the game to 5-3 in the Devils favor.
Gionta finished off the Monarchs with his second goal of the night and eighth tally of the season at 11:51 of the final frame. Mondou shot the puck at Cloutier from the hash marks but the goaltender made the save. Gionta was on the left doorstep to pick up the loose puck and flip it into the top of the net for the 6-3 final. Defenseman Mark Fraser added an assist on the final goal.
Manchester went 1-for-5 on the power play. Lowell was 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
Cloutier took the loss stopping 19-of-25 shots. Doyle earned his fifth win of the season with 34 saves.