MANCHESTER — The Manchester Monarchs couldn't get anything going against a red-hot goalie, dropping a 2-0 decision to the Hartford Wolf Pack in front of 5,676 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday night.
David LeNeveu stopped 37 shots to record his third consecutive shutout and backstop Hartford (31-31-7) to the win. Manchester dropped to 43-18-8, losing at home for the first time in nine games. The Monarchs host Portland on Saturday at 3 p.m.
"Credit (LeNeveu). He had a pretty good game. But we made him look pretty good, too," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "I didn't think we did a good enough job gritting it out in front of him. We were too (much on the) perimeter. He saw a lot of pucks. If you're going to play on the perimeter, that's an easy way to defend if you're Hartford."
Trailing 2-0, the Monarchs applied steadily increasing pressure as the third period wore on, but LeNeveu was there every time. With 4:25 remaining, Hunter Bishop had a golden opportunity from the slot on a two-on-one, but LeNeveu got his stick on it.
The Monarchs pulled goalie J.F. Berube with just over a minute to go and spent almost the entire remainder of the game pumping shots toward the Hartford net. But no pucks found their way into the Pack cage and Hartford left town with the win.
"You've got to score to win a hockey game," Morris said. "We applied a lot of energy and pressure, but we weren't good in front of the net on either end."
The Monarchs were playing with a stitched-together lineup as well. Two key defensemen were not in action as Vinny LoVerde is out with an injury and captain Andrew Campbell was called up to Los Angeles.
Three players made their AHL debuts for Manchester on Friday as well. A pair of St. Cloud State products, Kevin Gravel and Nic Dowd (a Hobey Baker finalist) and Wisconsin export Michael Mersch all skated their first pro games.
"We're trying to blend in new personalities and different chemistry," Morris said. "We've had a lot of personnel changes. Hopefully, we find some chemistry that's going to work."
Hartford took a 2-0 lead with a pair in the second period. Danny Kristo scored during a four-on-four at 7:25 to make it 1-0 Wolf Pack.
Off a faceoff in the Manchester end, Monarchs defenseman Colin Miller turned the puck over in the corner and T.J. Hensick backhanded a pass to Kristo all alone in the slot. Kristo went around Berube to tuck the puck in.
The Wolf Pack extended to a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal at 13:34. Aaron Johnson's slap shot from the high point made it through traffic and past Berube for the score and proved to be more than enough with LeNeveu on the other end.
It was the first time the Monarchs had been shutout at home since Jeff Zatkoff returned to blank his former team with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in November of 2012.