MANCHESTER, N.H. — Aside from 50 seconds of utter frustration, the Portland Pirates held their own with the best team in the American Hockey League.

Trouble was, the Manchester Monarchs scored five times in two quick flurries to beat the Pirates 6-2 on Saturday night and take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five opening-round series of the Calder Cup playoffs.

A crowd of 7,207 at Verizon Wireless Arena saw Manchester score twice in 10 seconds in the opening minute, then add three in a 39-second span in the third period.

Game 3 is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday in Cross Insurance Arena. The Pirates need to win to force a Game 4 at home Thursday night.

This one started about as poorly as could be imagined for the Pirates. Goaltender Mike McKenna lasted only 30 seconds before being pulled in favor of Louis Domingue after the Monarchs scored on their second and third shots of the game.

“Tough start,” said Pirates Coach Ray Edwards. “I really liked how we responded for the next 39 minutes, then another (short) stretch in the third where we just lost some assignments, made some crucial mistakes, a couple faceoff losses, and next thing you know you’re really in trouble.”

Michael Mersch took a pass from Brian O’Neill on the right post and stuffed it in for a 1-0 Manchester lead 20 seconds after the puck dropped. Moments later, Jordan Weal wristed a shot from the bottom of the right circle to make it 2-0 and signal the end for McKenna, who had been victimized by four goals in the first two periods of Thursday night’s 5-2 Monarchs victory.

Even worse, the Pirates lost top scorer and veteran leader Alexandre Bolduc, who limped off the ice late in the first, barely able to put weight on his left leg, after a collision near center ice. He did not return and is not expected to play Sunday.

The Pirates’ attack already features three players – forwards Christian Dvorak, Laurent Dauphin and Brendan Perlini – who joined the team within the past week after their junior hockey seasons.

“We’ve got some key parts out of the lineup,” said Edwards, who already lost forwards Jordan Martinook and Justin Hodgman and defenseman Evan Oberg to injuries. “We’re putting in young players who haven’t been here all year. It takes a lot of games to gain chemistry. It’s hard to do that in a week. But that’s part of our business. The guys who are in the lineup have got to find a way to muck one out here.”

As bad as things appeared, the Pirates managed to get a goal back with 14 seconds left in the first when Brendan Shinnimin’s slap shot from the left point deflected past Manchester goalie Jean-Francois Berube. Dvorak set it up with a drop pass that Joel Hanley tapped to Shinnimin.

The Pirates had several good chances to tie it in the second period, particularly during a five-minute penalty to Andrew Crescenzi for slamming Portland’s Darian Dziurzynski into the boards, resulting in a game misconduct for Crescenzi.

Jordan Szwarz set up Dauphin for a breakaway, and Shinnimin had possession on the edge of the crease, but both times Berube made the save.

“We were there a couple times,” said Pirates defenseman Dylan Reese. “I had a couple chances that I missed the net on. We had some chances that, maybe if we get them, they sit back a little bit more and feel the pressure.”

The Pirates have yet to lead at any point in the series. Any comeback hopes evaporated in the third when Sean Backman tipped in a power-play goal, followed by an O’Neill blast from the high slot and a Nic Dowd breakaway to make it 5-1 not even three minutes in.

Philip Samuelsson converted a power play to make it 5-2 with more than 13 minutes remaining. Mersch scored an empty-netter with two minutes left.

Berube finished with 17 saves. Domingue made 23 saves for the Pirates.

“They’re the best team we’ve faced all year,” Reese said. “Not only are they skilled, but they work hard. They back-pressure hard.”

Now the pressure is on the Pirates to win Sunday or be swept from a first-round playoff series for the second time in three years. Portland has not won a playoff game since 2011.

NOTES: Fans who buy a ticket for Games 3 and 4 in Portland can get a second ticket for half price. Anyone wishing to take advantage of the deal must call the Pirates (747-2837) up until two hours before game time. The promotion is not available at the arena box office.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

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Twitter: GlennJordanPPH