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January 28. 2012 10:38PM

Monarchs go to break with a win

Manchester's Richard Clune, right, drops Worcester's Curt Gogol during one of three first-period fights in Friday night's AHL game at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER — The Manchester Monarchs entered the AHL all-star break on a positive note with a 3-2 overtime win over Worcester in front of 7,545 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Saturday night.

Jake Muzzin scored a power-play goal with 1:04 remaining in the extra session to give second-place Manchester the win and keep the Monarchs (25-20-2, 52 points) just ahead of Worcester (20-13-9, 49) in the Atlantic Division standings, though the Sharks have played five fewer games.

Worcester scored twice in the final 4:00 of the third period to force overtime before Manchester was able to recover to net the game-winner.

“I thought we played really well for 50 minutes or so and in the third period it got away from us a little bit. You could tell we lost some momentum and credit Worcester with a gutsy effort to tie it up,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “It was a relief to see that puck go in the net (for us). It’s nice to see Jake Muzzin get a game-winner.”

Skating a man-advantage, the Monarchs were patient with the open ice afforded by a 4-on-3 overtime situation. Manchester moved the puck well to set up a wrist shot from Muzzin in the right circle that beat Tyson Sexsmith under the catching glove with Dwight King screening in front.

“Coach drew up a play where they wanted (Justin Azevedo and Brandon Kozun) to pull the guys over to give me a little room on the side there,” Muzzin said. “They did the job, they sucked guys over and it came to me and it was just a quick shot to beat him glove (side).”

Worcester put on a furious effort as the game dwindled down, spoiling AHL all-star goalie Jeff Zatkoff’s shutout bid at 16:09 of the third period. Zatkoff made a point-blank save on John McCarthy, but McCarthy banged the rebound through the pads to make it 2-1.

Just 28 seconds later, Worcester tied the game on a James Livingston tally. Zatkoff made the initial save on a backhand shot from James Viedensky and covered the puck, but could not hold on as Livingston banged it in from the doorstep to force overtime.

The game ended with some offensive fireworks and opened with a bang as well. Worcester and Manchester had been averaging two fights a game in their previous seven meetings and Saturday’s game quickly extended that ill will.

The gloves dropped for the first time 3:31 into the contest as Richard Clune and Shark Curt Gogol tangled. Clune had the decided edge in the bout and knew it, skating a wide berth to the penalty box afterwards so that he could play to the crowd.

“It’s no secret me and that kid don’t like each other. We tried to solve it they way hockey players solve their problems and he’s not saying too much right now, I’m sure,” Clune said. “It’s been going on since the start of the year and it came to a head today. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we come together.”

Off the ensuing faceoff, Manchester’s Justin Johnson and Frazer McLaren went at it, resulting in a draw. From there it took all of 13 seconds after the next faceoff for another fight to break out, this time between Monarch J.D. Watt and Sena Acolatse, with the Worcester scrapper earning the decision in that one.

Things settled down from there, with Azevedo scoring the lone goal of the first period by deflecting a cross-ice aerial backhand pass from Stefan Legein into the roof of the cage at 15:49.

King gave Manchester a 2-0 lead with the only goal of the second frame. King skated the rush himself, weaving through traffic and eventually slipping the puck through the five-hole on Sexsmith at the 5:56 mark.

Zatkoff and teammate Thomas Hickey will take part in today’s AHL skills competition in Atlantic City, N.J. (live on Comcast Sportsnet New England at 3 p.m.) and play in the all-star game itself Monday night at 7 p.m. (also to be shown live).

Manchester returns to action Friday night when Binghamton visits.

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