MANCHESTER, N.H. – If this indeed was an AHL playoff preview, it could be a couple of fun weeks.

The Manchester Monarchs outlasted the Portland Pirates 4-3 in a rough game Friday night at Verizon Wireless Arena for their eighth straight win.

The Pirates had beaten Manchester six straight times since Jan. 2, but they missed a chance to clinch home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs and gain ground on Worcester in the battle for first place in the Atlantic Division.

They return to the Cumberland County Civic Center to close out the regular season with games at 7 p.m. today against Lowell and at 4 p.m. Sunday against Worcester.

The Pirates are three points behind Worcester and four points in front of the Monarchs.

“We’re still alive,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said of his team’s quest for a division title. “If we win tomorrow and (the Sharks) lose, it sets up a pretty important game on Sunday.”

If the regular season ended today, the Pirates and Monarchs would meet in the first round, with Games 1 and 2 in Portland on Friday and Saturday.

“They’re a good team and they’re on a roll and we knew before the game there was a chance we’d be playing them in the playoffs,” said Portland center Travis Turnbull. “You want to play your best hockey and get some confidence going into the playoffs. You want to have everything clicking. You want to have the momentum.”

But the Monarchs grabbed the momentum with two goals in the first period and eventually sealed their victory with two power-play goals.

Manchester struck early for a pair of goals in a span of 1 minute, 36 seconds.

Corey Elkins finished off a two-on-one pass from Bud Holloway at 11:05 of the first period to make it 1-0. Andrei Loktionov then knocked in a rebound at 12:41.

“You never want to start from behind,” Turnbull said. “It’s tough to win games like that, especially in somebody else’s building.”

The Pirates pulled even with two quick goal of their own early in the second period.

Marc-Andre Gragnani’s 11th goal of the year, off a centering pass by Kyle Wanvig, made it 2-1 at the 2:02 second period.

Just 1:26 later, Drew Schiestel set up Paul Byron for the tying goal.

It stayed 2-2 until late in the period, when the Monarchs took advantage of back-to-back penalties on Kyle Rank and Byron for a five-on-three goal by Oscar Moller.

Portland’s Brad Larsen tipped in a T.J. Brennan shot during a power play to tie it again at 5:08 of the third period.

But Manchester went back in front for good with another power-play goal, on a shot from the point by Alec Martinez with 9:24 left. The Pirates had killed off a 40-second two-man advantage for Manchester just before the goal.

“You can only kill so many five-on-threes for so long,” said Dineen, who was not happy with the officiating. “It tires your guys out and it makes it real hard.”

Another round of penalties immediately followed the go-ahead goal, and the Pirates came out short-handed again.

Portland finished 1 for 8 on the power play, and Manchester was 2 for 6.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.