February 22

Pirates suffer late defensive collapse in Manchester

Portland squanders the lead and then the game.

By Kevin Gray
Special to the Telegram

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Three goals in the final 10 minutes lifted the Manchester Monarchs to a 5-4 victory, leaving the Portland Pirates with a jaw-dropping defeat Saturday night.

Zach O’Brien gave Manchester its first lead with 2:29 remaining, and the first-place Monarchs held on before 5,085 at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Midway through the third period, goals by Jordan Weal and Monarchs newcomer Colin Fraser knotted the contest at 4-apiece.

Portland was perfect on its first three power plays, including a pair of goals from Brandon McMillan in the second period as the Pirates held a two-goal advantage. Louis Domingue made 32 saves as the Pirates dropped to 19-23-2-7.

Manchester goalie Martin Jones stayed on the move as Portland seemed to widen the cage on the man-advantage, but it wasn’t enough as the Monarchs improved to 35-14-2-6.

“That’s been the story of the year. Our specials have been good but the 5-on-5 stunk up the joint,” Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said. “It’s a commitment level to play 5-on-5. Our group refuses to play the right way 5-on-5. It’s that simple.”

Portland’s Daine Todd set up the game’s first goal with a floater from the right point. The shot seemed rather harmless until Jones (23 saves) lost vision of puck and was beaten to the glove side with 13:02 on the clock.

The Pirates pressured Jones during a power play, taking a 2-0 lead on Lucas Lessio’s wrister from between the circles. The Monarchs outshot the visitors in the period (15-7) but couldn’t sneak anything past Domingue until early in the second period.

Nick Deslauriers, parked at the net, redirected a pass from Scott Sabourin for his team-leading 18th goal. Sabourin whistled a pass from deep in the right corner, hitting the tape on Deslauriers’ stick for an easy goal under Domingue’s glove.

Portland made it 2-for-2 on the power play with 11:55 remaining in the second period. McMillan, on a feed from Chris Brown, roofed a shot past Jones for a 3-1 advantage.

Midway through the second period, the Pirates went ahead, 4-2, with yet another power play goal. McMillan again found the net after charging through the right circle and scoring his eighth goal. Manchester, however, finished the night with three unanswered goals.

“Somebody has to lead our group in those situations,” Edwards said. “There are goals and mistakes being made in those situations when you hope someone can make a play. It’s too bad. There were portions of the game that I really liked, but we couldn’t find a way to win that game, and it’s disappointing. We need players to be much better than they are.”

NOTES: Jones is expected to rejoin the parent-club Los Angeles Kings as early as Sunday ... Portland defenseman David Rundblad, who has played a dozen games for Phoenix this season, joined the Pirates on a conditioning assignment and provided a boost on the blue line. Rundblad stayed busy, serving on the penalty kill and helping keep the Monarchs scoreless in the first period. Portland’s penalty kill was perfect on the night in five attempts ... Missing again from the lineup was Kyle Hagel, serving the second and final game of a suspension, the result of last weekend’s fracas against the Phantoms.

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