MANCHESTER - Jordan Weal's third goal of the game forced overtime with 31 seconds remaining and Sean Backman scored the game-winner to give the Manchester Monarchs a 4-3 win over Portland in front of 6,417 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Saturday.
The win improved the Monarchs to 44-19-8 and stopped a two-game losing streak. Manchester plays at Worcester Sunday at 3 p.m. Portland fell to 24-34-11 despite getting a hat trick of its own from Lucas Lessio. Manchester claimed the VIP Cup for winning the season series between the teams.
Backman got the game-winner with 1:11 remaining in overtime, skating down the right side and letting loose a huge slap shot from the circle to beat goalie Louis Domingue high stick-side. The win set off an on-ice celebration and gave rookie goalie Patrik Bartosak a win in his first AHL start.
"Things did not look good right up until the tail end of the game. It's amazing what a goal will do to spark your team. I felt like we were ready to erupt," Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said. "I'm hopeful that this sparks us and gives us life as we head into (Worcester)."
Manchester scored twice in the final two minutes of the game to get to overtime. Weal's second goal of the game came with 1:43 remaining on a one-timer from an Andy Andreoff pass and made it 3-2.
Weal completed the hat trick with a power-play goal (with Bartosak on the bench to create a 6-on-4 advantage) at 19:29 to knot the game at 3-3.
The tying goal came during a scramble in the Portland end. The puck came to Weal in the right circle and he spun to send a shot toward the net that hit Pirates defenseman Sam Klassen's skate and went into the net.
"We were just trying to tell each other to just keep working through it, keep working through it and bounces were going to come and they eventually did," Weal said. "It was nice (to get the hat trick). Everyone was working hard. All lines were going and we were chipping pucks in and wearing their D down. Finally we could break through."
Bartosak made 29 saves in his first AHL start, looking athletic and quick.
"I thought he played great," Morris said. "He was poised in the net and made some huge saves. We left him out to dry a few times with some less than stellar defensive plays. He's going to be a good one. You can tell. He's a good athlete in there."
Bartosak said he was happy to get his first win in the books.
"I don't really know how to describe it. I'm really enjoying it. Getting a win under my belt was important and I'm glad I got it the first start," Bartosak. "I always believed we were going to tie it up. It was just a matter of time. The boys took their time scoring the second and third goals, but they got it done."
Portland scored first in the game, taking a 1-0 lead 27 seconds into the second period on the power play. Jordan Martinook's pass from the goal line on the left side found Lessio in the mid slot for a one-timer to beat Bartosak low glove-side.
Manchester tied the game at 4:05 of the second. Zach O'Brien intercepted a clearing attempt and nudged the puck ahead to a wide open Weal in front to slip the puck five-hole. The Pirates reclaimed the lead at 2-1 at 7:22. Lessio raced up the right side, beating two defenders and cutting to the front of the net to tuck the puck around Bartosak inside the left post.
Lessio completed his hat trick at 13:22 of the second to push the Portland lead to 3-1. Darian Dziurzynski chipped a backhand pass to Lessio cruising into the slot and Lessio deflected it under the bar for the score.
After today's game at Worcester the Monarchs will play a rare mid-week game at Portland (in Lewiston, Maine) Wednesday night at 7 p.m. That game was originally scheduled for April 20 (the regular season finale) but was moved last week.