MANCHESTER — The battle of first-place teams went to Manchester.
The Atlantic Division-leading Manchester Monarchs defeated the Northeast Division-leading Springfield Falcons 4-3 in overtime in front of 4,317 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Friday night. Manchester is now 14-3-4 and will play at Hartford on Saturday night.
Manchester's Nick Deslauriers notched both the game-tying and game-winning goals, but it was a game Monarchs head coach Mark Morris thought his team was lucky to win after coming back from a 3-1 hole.
"We can take the bank robber masks off," Morris joked. "It was not a pretty hockey game. I give our guys credit for bouncing back in the third. We challenged them between periods and made it known that we had plenty of rest this week, there's no excuse for coming out and not skating."
The game-winner came at 1:19 of the extra frame when Falcons defenseman Patrick McNeill fell down at his own blue line and lost the puck. Manchester's Vincent LoVerde chipped the puck ahead to Deslauriers on the right wing boards.
Deslauriers skated backwards across the top of the crease, pulling the puck back to his forehand before roofing a shot past goalie Jeremy Smith's stick.
"I was running around a little bit and I thought I had a breakaway when the D man fell down," Deslauriers said. "I got a nice pass. I don't know how I handled that, I surprised myself. The team is pretty happy about the win."
Manchester had tied the game at 3-3 with 5:23 remaining in the third period. A stick-check from Kozun on Falcon center Andrew Joudrey led to a turnover as the puck skipped right to the tape of Deslauriers for a wrist shot that beat Smith high glove-side.
Already ahead by a goal, Springfield (13-3-2) extended its advantage to 3-1 on a power-play goal from Cody Goloubef at 6:55 of the second period. Goalie J.F. Berube was unable to cover the puck during a scramble in his crease and Darryl Boyce sent the puck back to Goloubef in the slot for a slap shot that beat Berube along the ice.
Manchester rookie defenseman Derek Forbort tried the get the home crowd back into the game by dropping the gloves with Springfield's Ilari Melart at the 7:13 mark of the second. Melart got the better of Forbort, but the Monarchs appeared to spark from the tussle and began to pressure.
The Monarchs pulled within a goal at 14:43 of the second on Jordan Weal's third goal of the season. Brandon Kozun fed Weal, who skated in on the left side and beat Smith with a wrist shot inside the far post.
The Monarchs scored first, taking a 1-0 lead 9:05 into the first period. Robbie Czarnik passed to Hunter Bishop in the slot for a one-timer and Maxim Kitsyn tipped the puck past Smith from the top of the crease.
Springfield tied the game at 1-1 at 17:51 of the first. Cody Bass sent Ryan Craig away with a head-man pass from neutral ice. Craig skated in on the left side and snapped a shot from the circle that beat Berube five-hole.
Just 25 seconds later it was 2-1 Falcons. A collision in the crease knocked Berube to the ice and Jonathan Marchessault circled behind the net, coming around on the right side to backhand a shot over the prone goalie and under the bar for his fourth goal of the year.