MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Portland Pirates know they can’t give the Manchester Monarchs too many chances if they want to advance in the Calder Cup playoffs.

Manchester has some of the best offensive players in the American Hockey League. On Thursday night, the Pirates played pretty well but still couldn’t keep pace.

Brian O’Neill and Jordan Weal each scored two goals, and Vincent LoVerde had a goal and two assists as Manchester grabbed a 5-2 victory in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series opener at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

LoVerde’s goal was a rarity – a rink-length, short-handed, empty-netter with 2:04 remaining. The others were all scored in close as the Monarchs pushed hard all night. Conversely, the Pirates had a difficult time penetrating the Manchester defense and put only 16 shots on goalie Jean-Francois Berube.

Game 2 of the best-of-five series is at 7 p.m. Saturday in Manchester.

“You don’t have to give them many opportunities for them to capitalize,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “We didn’t give them a lot but they capitalized on the ones they got. It’s hard chasing that team.”

The Pirates seemed to be doing a decent job in the first two periods but still trailed 4-1. In fact, Edwards felt the final score was deceiving.

“I told our group I don’t think it’s a 5-2 game,” he said. “It’s a closer game than that. We just didn’t generate enough. We were on the perimeter offensively.”

Weal opened the scoring just 2:07 in when he beat goalie Mike McKenna from the right faceoff dot, a play set up by a nice through-pass from Sean Backman at the Pirates’ blue line. That allowed Weal to go in alone on the right and he beat McKenna to the far side.

But the Pirates came right back, tying the game 1:04 later on a power play.

Henrik Samuelsson got the goal, a one-timer from the top of the right circle after Brendan Shinnimin poked the puck over to him from his knees.

But then Manchester’s scorers took over. O’Neill put the Monarchs ahead at 10:27 of the first when he collected a loose puck alone in the low slot and beat McKenna stick side. A shot by Andrew Bodnarchuk from the left point hit Manchester’s Michael Mersch, who was tangled with a Pirates defenseman, just to the left of the goal and the puck rolled to an uncovered O’Neill.

Weal tipped in a LoVerde shot from the right point on a power play with 8:33 left in the second – just five seconds after Eric Selleck went in for high-sticking.

O’Neill made it 4-1 with 2:30 left in the second on a rebound.

“Give them credit, they’re the No. 1 team in the league for a reason,” said Shinnimin. “We had our chances but we didn’t capitalize like they did.”

Manchester Coach Mike Stothers said neither team played its best.

“It wasn’t a great game for either team. You can expect both teams to play better Saturday,” he said.

The Pirates know they cannot let Manchester dictate the game again.

“They’re good players,” said defenseman Dylan Reese. “They don’t turn it over often, they have confidence with the puck, they find each other open. It’s tough to play against.”

And the Pirates need to compete with the puck. Edwards said the Pirates let Manchester control the game with puck possession.

“We know we have to have the puck more if we’re going to be successful,” he said. “And we didn’t win that sort of game-within-the-game tonight. We’ve got to find a way, when we don’t have it, to get it back more efficiently, quicker. And try to keep it when we have it.”

“They dominated the time of possession,” said Reese. “We kind of got away from our game when we got down, trying to create some offense. But I just think they looked like the better team.”

Edwards changed goalies after two periods, replacing McKenna (10 saves) with Louis Domingue.

“Just trying to create a spark,” said Edwards.