MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Pirates took the ice Friday wondering if this would be the night they clinched an American Hockey League playoff berth.

Now they’ll prepare for their home finale Saturday night with the possibility of being eliminated from contention.

The Pirates lost their eighth in a row, 3-2 to the league-leading Manchester Monarchs before a crowd of 5,086 at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Portland’s loss, coupled with a shootout loss by Springfield and a third straight victory by Albany, lifted Springfield into the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, one point above the Pirates and Albany, who are now tied for ninth.

“If this game’s in December, you’re feeling great and moving on to the next night,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards, whose team outshot Manchester 44-23 but made two costly turnovers that led to Monarchs goals.

“With the situation we’re in, we need to win. No matter how, we’ve got to find a way.”

Henrik Samuelsson scored a pair of power-play goals for the Pirates, who led 1-0 before Manchester answered with two goals in the last six minutes of the first period and a third early in the second.

Portland scored in the final minute of the second and had six minutes of a skater advantage in the third (two power plays and the final 2:01 with goaltender Mike McKenna pulled for an extra attacker) but couldn’t put the equalizer past Monarchs backup goalie Patrik Bartosak, who finished with 42 saves.

The Monarchs have won four straight and 7 of 8. Their first goal came when Nic Dowd intercepted a pass from Portland’s Jordan Szwarz in the Pirates’ zone and had an open shot from the slot.

Jordan Weal found teammate Michael Mersch alone near the right post with a minute left in the opening period to make it 2-1.

“We had a bad (line) change,” Edwards said. “We were late getting on the ice and they were able to capitalize. It seemed like every chance they got went in.”

Early in the second, center Tyler Gaudet tried to go wide on a foray into the Manchester zone but had the puck knocked from his control, leading to a Weal breakaway. With Portland’s Joel Hanley bearing down on him, Weal feathered a pass back to Justin Auger trailing the play to make it 3-1.

“They’re very opportunistic, for sure,” Edwards said. “They’re a good hockey club. They’re first in the league for a reason.”

Alex Bolduc, who assisted on Samuelsson’s early goal – the rebound of a Lucas Lessio shot – set up Samuelsson’s second of the night with a drop pass to the top of the right circle to pull the Pirates within 3-2 entering the third.

They could get no closer.

Although the Pirates are currently in ninth, they still control their destiny.

Regardless of what Springfield does in its final game, the Pirates would qualify by beating Providence on Saturday night in Portland and Worcester on Sunday afternoon in Massachusetts.

However, should Springfield win and the Pirates lose Saturday, the Falcons would wrap up the final berth.

“It makes (Saturday) a pretty big game, doesn’t it?” Edwards said. “We’re in a position now where we have to likely win both games to get in.”

NOTES: Three AHL clubs announced new NHL affiliations Friday. Springfield will switch from Columbus to Arizona, Lake Erie from Colorado to Columbus and San Antonio from Florida to Colorado. In March the Pirates announced a four-year agreement with the Florida Panthers after four seasons with Arizona. … Manchester right wing Brian O’Neill, who was named MVP of the league earlier Friday, was a healthy scratch. … The first period included nine penalties, including four for fighting, two for unsportsmanlike conduct and another for roughing. Two Pirates – center Jordan Martinook and defenseman Evan Oberg – saw their seasons end because of injuries suffered against Manchester. “We’ve had some bad blood that way, but (Friday night) was about winning the game,” Edwards said. “That had to be the focus. I thought we were good enough to win, we just didn’t win.”