Whale of an outburst drops Monarchs
The loss dropped Manchester to 29-28-3 for 61 points, holding down a tie (with Worcester) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Northeast Division-leading Connecticut improved to 29-19-10 for 68 points.
After a scoreless first two periods, the Monarchs led 1-0 on a Justin Azwevedo power-play goal 33 seconds into the third frame. But the Whale scored three straight goals in a span of 3:37 to break the game open.
'Going in there with a one goal lead, you'd like to be able to finish it off,' Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said. 'We had three goals against us in the third and it was just a little too much to come back from. Our energy was pretty good, but we needed to be a little better to beat a team like that.'
Azevedo tallied his 14th of the season to make it 1-0 early in the third. Trent Hunter battled along the left wing wall and got the puck to Jake Muzzin, who sent a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Azevedo on the right side for a one-timer past goalie Chad Johnson.
With Monarchs goalkeeper Jeff Zatkoff (39 saves in the game) having a strong day in the other net, the thin lead appeared as though it might be enough. But the Whale changed the face of the game quickly.
Connecticut left wing Tommy Grant sent a perfect saucer pass from the boards in deep to Andre Deveaux streaking in back-door and Deveaux reached out to deflect the puck past Zatkoff's outstretched left pad and tie the game at 1-1 at 8:06.
The Whale took a 2-1 lead at 10:23 during a four-on-four. Manchester lost a faceoff in its own end and Connecticut defenseman Pavel Valentenko fluttered a wrist shot toward the net that Kris Newbury tipped in.
Still on the four-on-four 1:20 later, Kelsey Tessier carried the puck into the Manchester zone, put on a move to get around defenseman Patrick Mullen and snapped off a quick shot from the slot to beat Zatkoff for the 3-1 lead.
'We made a few mistakes there,' Zatkoff said. 'Give them credit, the first goal is a nice goal. The guy makes a great pass back-door. The second, we lose the draw clean and the guy makes a nice tip in front. The third, we're pushing trying to score and unfortunately we get caught there and they take advantage of it.'
Manchester didn't go quietly and continued to press late in the game. Azevedo scored again to make the game 3-2, striking on a close-range rebound chance off a Thomas Hickey blast from the point.
But that goal came with less than four seconds remaining and was too little, too late.
'Little bounces didn't go our way, plays where we should have beared down a little harder,' Azevedo said. 'It was a good game up until a few minutes into the third. I still think we played hard, we've just got to play smarter.'
The Monarchs are off until Friday night when they will host Springfield at 7 p.m. Manchester then travels to Portland Saturday before closing the weekend three-game set with a 3 p.m. home game Sunday against Connecticut...