Special teams the difference in Monarchs' loss to Portland
Portland Pirates goalie Mark Viesntin makes a save as Manchester Monarchs Tanner Pearson looks for the rebound during the second period of their AHL game played at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester Sunday afternoon. (MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER - The 4-0 final score may not indicate how tight the game was, but the end result was a win for Portland over the Manchester Monarchs on Sunday afternoon.
The Pirates (10-9-2) scored a pair of empty-net goals in the final 91 seconds to put the game away in front of an announced crowd of 3,547 at Verizon Wireless Arena. Manchester fell to 10-8-3 and will be off until Friday when it visits Providence.
Much of the game was played by the special teams units as 18 penalties were whistled. Portland went 1-7 on the power play while Manchester went 0-5.
"We did play very well for a long stretch," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "We spent too much time in the penalty box. That changed the whole course of the game. We played hard. We didn't have the right bounces and when we had all the opportunities to score, the power play was ineffective."
The game was scoreless until just over the halfway point when Portland took a 1-0 lead. Brandon Gormley sent the puck down into the Manchester end and Monarchs defenseman Jake Muzzin tried to collect it to start the play the other way.
But Muzzin came up empty and Rob Klinkhammer grabbed the puck and broke in alone on goalie Martin Jones, putting a wrist shot into the net high stick-side at 10:07 of the second period.
"They caught us with a long pass in the second period. We were poaching a little bit and they got a breakaway and scored," Morris said. "They took advantage of that."
The Pirates pushed the lead to 2-0 at 8:07 of the third period on another Klinkhammer goal. Working the power play, Portland defenseman Michael Stone drove a slapper on net that Jones stopped. But the puck bounced around and ended up on the right post for a bang-in from Klinkhammer.
Ethan Werek scored an empty net goal at 18:29 and Darian Dziurzynski popped another empty netter home just before the final buzzer sounded to account for the 4-0 final.
"I think you can say we didn't deserve to win flat out, but we didn't deserve to lose," said Monarchs alternate captain Thomas Hickey. "We did a lot of good things and limited their grade 'A' chances. It's a tough way to lose, especially on a Sunday where you laid everything out there."
The Monarchs had opportunities, skating five ultimately fruitless power plays.
"We had some great chances. We have some guys that can put the puck away that weren't able to get the shots on net in the spots they needed to," Morris said. "I liked the way we moved the puck. Credit their goalie and defenders. They were quicker coming out to our points."
The shutout was an unusual combined effort between Pirates' starter Chad Johnson and relief man Mark Viesntin. Johnson (11 saves) left the game after the first period with a lower body injury.
Coming in cold, Viesntin (21 saves) played well, making several key stops early in the second period to get himself in the flow of the game.
"When you see that, you want to get shots on a goalie who's cold right away," Hickey said. "He's a young guy, too. It's his first year. He was up to the task. It's a product of being really focused to be able to jump in like that when we made a strong push like that."