Jordan Weal dazzled on Monday after a (team-wide) subpar outing Saturday evening.
He scored the opening goal 42 seconds in, got the eventual game-winning goal and even added a third one just for good measure, ensuring that the game was fully out of reach for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) wouldn't be able to mount a comeback.
In the first period, Manchester jumped out to an early lead after Michael Mersch threw the puck on goal and Matt Murray gave up a juicy rebound. A net-crashing Weal was more than happy to accept the gift left for him and put home the rebound.
About halfway into the period, Weal took two straight penalties -- both in the offensive zone. But the Monarchs were excellent on the PK and blocked several shots. Jean-Francois Berube was huge and stopped the shots that did get through to him.
Manchester fairly dominant throughout the rest of the period and spent a considerable amount of time in the offensive zone peppering Murray, who managed to hold the surging Monarchs. Two power plays went nowhere and they even gave up two shorthanded chances on the second PP.
Monarchs' offense exploded with three goals in the second period.
While on their third penalty kill of the evening, Mersch scored a great shorthanded goal, just blasting it over Murray's shoulder from the high slot.
Weal scored the eventual game-winning-goal close to the midpoint of the game with a nice tip. The WBS announcers were howling that it was offsides but it was a little hard to tell from my crappy feed.
Here's the first screencap from the offsides play.
Weal was in the engaged in a puck battle along the boards but loses. He then rotates down low probably assuming that Brian O'Neill will be able to pick it up, but a Penguins player supposedly chips the puck out to center. However, Colin Miller comes flying in to prevent the offsides call. The linesman may have been partially screened by Jeff Schultz, though it's difficult to tell.
(Also, of interest to note here: Schultz was kinda hanging around down at the blue line but didn't really make a concerted effort to join the rush or get involved with the puck battle. But then here comes Colin Miller to pick him up. I'm not sure if that's a set play or if that's just a personality thing, I just found it interesting.)
By this point, MIller has managed to recover the puck to the point where the linesman is starting to call it onsides. Notice the Penguins player who is already pointing, insisting that the puck was out. I don't have a good feed or a good angle, so it's entirely possible that he's right.
The linesman has been emphatically waving off the offsides. Now, he has a very clear look to see that the puck is indeed (still) in the zone. The Penguins players are slow to react and that gives Miller, a very skilled player, time to step into that slapshot and let it rip. Weal was down at the faceoff dot to tip it in.
This all happened within a span of about five seconds so it's difficult to fault the linesman or the players for their reactions to the offsides call (because while they were complaining, Miller was still playing and it burned them.)
Four minutes later, David van der Gulik padded Manchester's lead off a great feed from Nick Shore, which got Murray moving laterally. For those who don't know, making the goalie move side-to-side makes it much more difficult for them to stop the puck and also opens up holes.
Great work here by Shore to maintain control of the puck and not turn it over under pressure.
The period ended with the Monarchs up 3-0 and dominating in many facets of the game. They had one power play, which, again, went nowhere, though it wasn't that bad.
Former Los Angeles Kings prospect Jeff Zatkoff started the third period in relief of Murray, who'd allowed four goals (which, with the way Manchester was playing wasn't that many) through 40 minutes of play.
Just over mid-way through the third period, Weal finally got his hat trick on the power play.
It's a little hard to see, but he basically just flies down the right wing side and uses the defenseman as a screen to wrist the puck past Zatkoff, who never saw it coming.
Berube was about nine minutes away from a shutout, when Nick Drazenovic and Tom Kostopoulos, both fourth liners on WBS, teamed up to ruin the bid. The goal was a comedy of errors. Kevin Gravel fell down and Derek Forbort was a little slow to get back, then Berube fell down and looked hilariously foolish.
The fans in the arena hardly had time to celebrate before Bryan Rust, playing in only his second playoff game this postseason, scored again.
While I'm sure Berube would like that goal back, I'm still trying to figure out what Schultz was doing on this play.
Berube and his teammates did a better job at shutting the door from there on out, even with the goalie pulled and some good pressure from the Penguins in the final minute. They won the game 5-2 and lead the series 3-1 with an opportunity to close out the series tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET.
The fourth game is always the hardest so the Monarchs are going to need to battle hard.
- Weal’s first-period goal was his 18th career point in the playoffs, moving him into sole possession of third place on the Monarchs’ all-time playoff points list. He is now one point shy of Justin Azevedo (21 points) for second place on that list.
- Weal has a team-high 15 points (10 goals, 5 assists) since the start of the playoffs. He is the first Monarchs player ever to score 10 goals in a single playoff and is two points shy of Patrick O’Sullivan (17 points) for the most points ever by a Monarchs player in a single postseason.
- The Monarchs are 6-0 in these playoffs when scoring the first goal of the game.
- Michael Mersch (goal, assist) has 13 points in the playoffs (6 goals, 7 assists), the most points ever by a Monarchs rookie in a single postseason.
- Mersch scored the Monarchs’ second shorthanded goal of the playoffs. Vincent LoVerde scored the other in Game 1 of the Portland series.
- Manchester has scored at least five goals in five of its nine games during the playoffs, going 5-0 in those games.
The Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) were resting yesterday but Weal is closing in on Teemu Pulkkinen who has been the hottest scorer in the entire playoffs.
Manchester Monarchs 2015 Playoffs Individual Stats
|14||David Van der Gulik||LW||5||2||3||5||4||2||0||0||8||25.0|
Manchester Monarchs 15 Playoffs Schedule
Manchester will have the opportunity to win the series tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Listen live at http://www.wsmnradio.com/ .