Brian O’Neill and Jordan Weal each potted a pair of goals to lift the Manchester Monarchs to a 5-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Thursday at Verizon Wireless Arena and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal.
Manchester was ahead by a score of 1-0 in the second period until a flurry of three goals over a span of 23 seconds would see the Penguins ultimately even the score. With Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on the power play, Andrew Ebbett found Conor Sheary between the harshmarks for a one-timer that was partially stopped by Monarchs goalie Jean-Francois Berube before trickling across the goal line at 12:28.
Ten seconds later, the Monarchs went on top, 2-1, when Justin Auger was allowed to skate in untouched from the far wall of the Penguins zone and tuck a forehand shot under the pads of goaltender Matt Murray.
It took only an additional 14 seconds for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to pull even for a second time as Tom Kuhnhackl led a 2-on-1 rush down the left side and sent the puck across the Manchester crease that Dominik Uher was able to knock in with a backhand.
O’Neill and Weal combined to give the Monarchs the lead for good with 2:57 remaining until the second intermission. Controlling the puck near the right point, O’Neill fired a backdoor pass to Weal, who quickly snapped a shot to the near corner of the net to make it a 3-2 edge for Manchester.
Weal struck again at 5:24 of the third, banging in a rebound during a 5-on-4 man advantage to build a two-goal cushion for the home team.
O’Neill added an empty net goal with 2:03 left in regulation to complete the scoring.
For the second straight game in the series, it was the Monarchs going ahead, 1-0. Taking a pass out of the left corner of the Penguins zone from Michael Mersch, O’Neill stickhandled to the front of the net and snapped a shot inside the near post at 9:28 of the first.
Murray stopped 29 of 33 shots in the loss for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. It was the first time that the Penguins goalie dropped consecutive starts since Dec. 19 and 27, 2014.
Berube won his 11th straight game at home, saving 18-of-20 for the Monarchs.
The Eastern Conference Semifinal series shifts to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for Game 3 between the Penguins and Monarchs on Saturday, May 9 at 7:05 p.m.