PORTLAND – Kevin Dineen saw the desperation in the Manchester Monarchs. He didn’t see the same from the Portland Pirates. Then, Dineen and the Pirates saw how the Monarchs responded in the third period, armed with that desperation.

Friday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the Monarchs beat the Pirates 2-1 in the series opener of an American Hockey League Atlantic Division semifinal. Manchester scored its two goals in the first five minutes of the third and held the Pirates to six third-period shots on goal.

“Instead of us pushing back that hard, I thought we sat back,” said Dineen, the Pirates’ coach. “It’s having an extremely high compete level in our zone and playing with a level of desperation no matter what the score. You don’t have to do that just when you’re down a goal. You’ve got to make sure that’s part of our makeup.”

Portland defenseman Mike Weber agreed.

“We really didn’t push as hard back as we’d like,” Weber said. “In a playoff series, at the NHL level or at the American League level, you make a mistake in the playoffs and it’s magnified. It’s huge.”

Two minutes after John Zeiler made it 1-1 at 2:22 of the third, Corey Elkins dangled the puck as he skated across the front of the crease, and Bud Holloway came in to whack the puck by Pirates goalie J.P. Lamoureux, who went down in anticipation of an Elkins shot.

Holloway’s goal gave Manchester a 2-1 lead at 4:37 of the third, and the two goals came as a result of tactical breakdowns by the Pirates.

“The first one was off a faceoff, so obviously we weren’t ready right off the bat when the puck dropped there,” Portland defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani said. “The second one, it was on the (penalty kill), off a dump-in and the guy was there first, and it didn’t work out.”

After Holloway’s goal, the Pirates couldn’t match Manchester’s level of desperation.

“I think we just kept our composure and kept to our systems, and that’s what brought us to score those two goals,” said Manchester goalie Jonathan Bernier, who finished with 22 saves. “The biggest thing is that we didn’t panic. Especially with a young team like this, it’s tough not to panic on the road.”

Now the Pirates turn their attention to Game 2, with a chance at salvaging a split of the first two playoff games in Portland. They’ll likely do so with a little more desperation.

“You’ve got to dig deep and come back,” Weber said. “Luckily we get to come back (tonight) and play it again.”

NOTES: The Sabres reassigned left wing Nathan Gerbe to the Pirates. He had a goal and two assists in eight games before he was returned for the AHL playoffs. Gerbe led the Pirates with seven shots on goal in the loss.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]


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