PORTLAND – After falling behind less than seven minutes into the game, the Manchester Monarchs kept their cool and kept pounding away at the Portland Pirates in the opener of their AHL playoff series Friday night.
The Monarchs got goals from John Zeiler and Bud Holloway early in the third period for a 2-1 win before a crowd of 2,634 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The best-of-seven Atlantic Division semifinal series re-sumes tonight at the Civic Center.
For most of the Monarchs, Friday’s game was their first AHL playoff experience.
“We were just trying to find our way,” Manchester Coach Mark Morris said. “It seems when we did get our chances (early) the puck was hopping over our sticks or we misfired.
“The more we hammered, the puck finally bounced our way, and we got a goal out of it. The momentum swing was noticeable; we played with a lot more jump in our step once we got that first goal.”
While the Pirates won 7 of 10 games against the Monarchs during regular season, six were decided by one goal.
“They held the advantage in the shots, but as far as the pace and feel of the play, I think it went both ways,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said. “Obviously, the margin for error is very small. You have to respond and be ready and get out of that protect mode and be more assertive when you’ve got the advantage on the scoreboard.
“That was probably the difference tonight. There was a little bit more desperation by them. Instead of us pushing back that much, I thought we sat back.”
The Pirates took the early lead when Derek Whitmore’s shot from just inside the left circle deflected off the skate of Manchester defenseman Alec Martinez and beyond the reach of goalie Jonathan Bernier.
After chasing the Pirates for almost two full periods, the Monarchs caught up 2:22 into the third period when Zeiler slid a rebound past J.P. Lamoureux after the Pirates goalie stopped a shot by Gabe Gauthier.
A little more than two minutes later, Holloway popped in a rebound for a power-play goal after Lamoureux fell to the ice while making a stop on Corey Elkins.
“I think the biggest thing is we didn’t panic,” said Bernier, the AHL goalie of the year. “That was really big for a young team like this to not panic when they scored. We stuck to the game plan.”
Bernier, who spent four seasons with the Lewiston Maineiacs, had to make just 22 saves to record his first AHL playoff win.
“I thought we did a very good job of keeping shots to the outside,” Bernier said. “I had maybe had two, three shots that were really dangerous.”
NOTES: The Pirates played the final 17 minutes of the game without Brad Larsen, who was carried off the ice after getting hit in the right leg by a hard shot from Martinez. … Injuries kept defensemen Matt Generous and Dennis Persson out of the Portland lineup.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: