The Manchester Monarchs entered the final frame knotted at 2-2 but fell victim to three third period tallies in a 5-3 defeat to the Connecticut Whale at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester (31-29-0-3) is in second place in the Atlantic Division with 65 points. Connecticut (31-20-5-5) is tied for first place in the Northeast Division with 72 points.
“We had a good weekend,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “We had a chance there with a goal just called off. The puck was in and out of the net before there was any contact. It is kind of disappointing because it certainly affected the outcome of the game. Tough break. That is the way it goes sometimes. We fought back and made it close but the turnover and the odd man rush that we gave up in the third were pretty costly.”
The Whale took a 4-2 lead off the stick of right wing Andreas Thursson at 11:20 of the third period. Left wing Tommy Grant sent a pass over to center Casey Wellman who was skating through the neutral zone. Wellman took the puck to the top of the left wing-face-off circle before centering it to Thursson in between the hash marks. Thursson wristed a shot past Monarchs goaltender Jeff Zatkoff for the eventual game-winning tally and his 13th goal of the season.
The Whale opened the scoring 1:14 into the first period when Wellman tallied his 19th goal of the season. Thursson played the puck indirectly from behind the Monarchs cage to defenseman Brendan Bell at the left point. Bell fired a slap shot on net that Zatkoff stopped but the rebound popped free to the right doorstep. Wellman picked up the loose puck and backhanded it into the for the first goal of the game.
The Monarchs answered to tie the game at 1-1 at 4:12 of the opening frame. As the Monarchs cycled the puck in the Whale zone, center Andrei Loktionov fed a pass from the right wing corner back to defenseman David Kolomatis at the right point. Kolomatis launched a slap shot that was redirected by left wing Richard Clune in front of the net for his fifth tally of the season.
Right wing Trent Hunter gave the Monarchs a 2-1 lead 27 seconds after Clune’s tally. With the Monarchs on the power play, center Justin Azevedo fed the puck to Hunter at the left wing half wall. Hunter pushed the puck back to Kolomatis at the left point. The defenseman returned a pass back to Hunter and the right wing carried the puck two strides just outside of the left face-off circle before snapping a wrist shot. The puck traveled through traffic and be Whale goaltender Chad Johnson low on the stick side for his second tally of the season.
Connecticut tied the game at 2-2 on the power play off the stick of center Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. With the Whale on the power play, Audy-Marchessault sent the puck from the left point to center Kris Newbury at the right point. Newbury continued to cycle the puck as he passed it over to defenseman Tim Erixon who was along the left wing half wall. Audy-Marchessault drove to the bottom of the left wing face-off circle to pick up a pass from Erixon and beat Zatkoff for his 20th goal of the season.
Connecticut took a 3-2 lead off a Monarchs turnover at 8:09 of the third period. Left wing Chris Bourque intercepted a pass from Monarchs right wing Linden Vey and deflected the puck to Wellman who was between the hash marks and the center point of Manchester’s zone. Wellman turned with the puck and wristed a shot from the right face-off circle that beat Zatkoff on the glove side for his 20th goal of the season.
Monarchs center Marc-Andre Cliche had a goal waved off midway through the third period due to goaltender interference.
The Monarchs cut the Whale’s lead to 4-3 at 18:09 of the third period when defenseman Thomas Hickey found the back of the net. Right wing Linden Vey played the puck from the right wing half wall back to defenseman Patrick Mullen at the right point. Mullen released a quick pass over to Hickey at the left point where the defenseman launched a slap shot. Hickey’s blast fought through traffic and found the back of the net for his third goal of the season.
Defenseman Wade Redden finished the scoring with an empty net goal to give the Whale a 5-3 lead. Redden retrieved a puck that was dumped in to the Whale’s zone by the Monarchs. Redden flipped the puck off the glass, down the ice and into the net for his second tally of the season at 18:58 of the third period.
Zatkoff (17-14-1) took his 14th loss of the season stopping 27-of-31 shots. Johnson (20-13-5) earned his 20th victory of the season making 34 saves on 37 shots.
Manchester went 1-for-4 on the power play. Connecticut was also 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
Notables: Center Justin Azevedo has eight points (6-2=8) in his last four games…Defenseman David Kolomatis has recorded two assists in each of the last two games…Defenseman Jake Muzzin’s four-game assist streak ended…Left wing Richard Clune scored his first goal since returning from a lower body injury on January 25…Clune’s last goal came on October 28, 2011.
The Monarchs will travel to play the St. John’s IceCaps at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 17 at the Mile One Centre. Catch all the play-by-play action of Monarchs hockey with Ken Cail on the Monarchs Radio Network WTPL 107.7 FM The Pulse, WGIR.com and at www.manchestermonarchs.com, presented by Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.