MANCHESTER, N.H. – Justin Pogge came on in emergency relief. And pretty much stole the show.
Pogge made 25 saves after taking over for injured starter Curtis McElhinney less than six minutes into the game to lead the Portland Pirates to a 4-1 win over the slumping Manchester Monarchs at the Verizon Wireless Arena Sunday.
“To get your head in the game takes a little bit, but I’ve been around for a while,” Pogge said. “I got some outside shots and they shoot the puck a lot. I just tried to be big in there and block some of those shots.”
Pogge gave up a long power-play blast early in the second period that tied the game at 1-1.
But no more.
The Pirates got the lead back and in the third period, led by Pogge, shut down a 5-minute power play on their way to the win.
The Pirates (18-16-5), who moved within three points of the third-place Monarchs in the Atlantic Division, open a seven-game homestand at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against the Connecticut Whale.
“We have a big stretch here at home,” said Portland Coach Ray Edwards. “This is a chance for us to push ourselves into a playoff position. It’s a big home-stand for us.”
The Monarchs (21-18-2) lost their sixth straight.
The Pirates were killing a penalty when McElhinney dropped to the ice in his crease, away from any contact, 5:36 into the game. He had to be helped off the ice and was using crutches when he left the rink.
“It looks like it’s some sort of abdominal, groin, hernia thing, something to do with all those muscles in there,” Edwards said. “He was hurting pretty badly, in a lot of pain.”
The Pirates grabbed the lead with 4:15 left in the period when Brock Trotter broke away and got in tight on Manchester goalie Jeff Zatkoff and jammed the puck past him.
Manchester’s Nick Deslauriers tied it 2:45 into the second period with the one-timer from the right point.
Less than two minutes later, Patrick O’Sullivan skated in from the right boards and waited patiently to score, putting Portland ahead 2-1.
Pogge made a pretty glove save on another Deslauriers blast to preserve the lead later in the second period and had a few nice saves on the extended Monarchs power play.
Manchester got the 5-minute advantage when Portland captain Dean Arsene was called for a match penalty, and ejected from the game, for a check to the head on Robbie Czarnik.
Czarnik hit the ice hard and was taken from the rink on a stretcher and transported to the hospital to be evaluated.
“You never want to see a guy get carried off on a stretcher,” Pogge said. “We banded together and killed it for our captain. He didn’t mean to knock the guy out. He was playing the body and playing physical.”
The Pirates killed the penalty and then closed the game out when David Rundblad drilled a puck into the top corner for a power-play goal with 1:19 left and Brett MacLean scored into an empty net.
NOTES: Defenseman Nathan Oystrick missed his third straight game for Portland with a lower body injury. … Rundblad’s goal was his second in as many games since coming down from Phoenix. “He’s got a rocket,” Edwards said. “It’s good to have him back there.”