Coming into this game, the Monarchs hadn't been able to win Game 3 on the road in their previous two rounds. That's not really the worst thing ever given that they had a 2-0 series lead and you would expect some push back from the team that's down in the series, especially when they're at home.
Mackenzie Skapski started this game given how bad Yann Danis was in the first two games, which seems remarkable to me given that he had a .931 sv% coming into the series. Skapski wasn't bad or anything in relief of Danis in Game 2, but I guess when you're down 0-2 in the series, it doesn't hurt to try something different.
In the first period, e Monarchs wasted no time in buzzing around Skapski's net with Michael Mersch quickly taking up residence in his favorite spot as soon as he could.
It took a little more than five minutes before Nick Shore found the back of the net. For Manchester, that's close to a scoring drought (since they'd been scoring within the first couple minutes in pretty much all of their wins). Skapski gave up a couple of big rebounds, one that went to Zach O'Brien, then to Andrew Bodnarchuk before Shore could finally get a stick on one.
Immediately following that goal, Derek Forbort took a cross-checking penalty, which was killed off with nary a sniff even near the net.
Halfway through the first period, Manchester had nine shots on goal and had allowed zero Hartford shots on goal. But then David van der Gulik ran into Skapski for a goalie interference penalty. Monarchs had just about killed it off when Sean Backman took a tripping penalty with 23 seconds remaining on van der Gulik's penalty.
van der Gulik nearly doubled Manchester's lead with a shorthanded goal after he got a breakaway right out of the box but couldn't quite get the rebound to go past Skapski, who made a couple of great desperation saves to keep the score close.
Shortly thereafter, Chad Nehring was credited for tipping the puck in with two seconds remaining on Backman's penalty. The goal came on Hartford's second shot on goal.
Just under a minute to go in the period, Mersch leads a rush out of his own zone. He leans into his defender, can't quite get a shot on net but Skapski decided not to freeze the puck since there was Wolf Pack a defender there to clear the rebound. Unfortunately, he cleared it right to Brian O'Neill who found Jordan Weal flying into the slot who made a slick cross seam pass to O'Neill now at the right wing circle as he (Weal) didn't have a clean shot.
The period ended with Monarchs on top 2-1 and outshooting the Wolf Pack 16-4. Even when the score was tied, Manchester always looked in control of the game and Hartford always looked like they were half a step behind.
In the second period, Monarchs picked up where they left off, consistently pressuring the Wolf Pack into making turnovers and denying a lot of quality Grade A chances.
The Wolf Pack almost caught Jean-Francois Berube napping, but he made the easy save on a shot to the midsection.
After Shore won the faceoff, Zach O'Brien led the rush out of his own zone and fired off a shot just below the left wing circle. Skapski couldn't handle the rebound, dropped it and the following scrum that ensued resulted in a bit of a greasy goal for Adrian Kempe. O'Brien got control of the puck before Skapski could, threaded the needle with a pinpoint pass and somehow the puck got across the goal line despite a diving save attempt from Skapski (who appeared to smother it before it went in) and another defender in the crease. There is a possibility that Skapski may have inadvertently knocked it in himself, though.
That was the third goal of the game that came as a direct result of Skapski's inability to control his rebounds.
Midway through the second period, Colin Miller tackled Chris Mueller in the crease, not only inhibiting Berube's ability to play but also taking kind of a dumb penalty at the same time. It did not, however, result in a goal against as Berube flashed the leather to prevent Hartford from making the score closer.
The Monarchs were excellent on the kill, not even allowing a shot on goal. Manchester outshot Hartford 13 to 7 in that period, 29 to 11 overall.
Both teams exchanged a few chances, but Kempe's goal was the only one scored.
Early in the third period, Mersch drew a charging penalty on Dylan McIlrath as the two collided hard into the dasher boards at center ice. Mersch left the ice but did eventually return to the bench.
Manchester's power play continues to be a source of embarrassment and wonderment (as in, how can it possibly be so bad??). They had zero shots on goal on the power play and registered no shots even through the first six minutes of the period. At this point, the Monarchs were more concerned with shutting down the Wolf Pack and making sure to play solid, defensive hockey than they were with adding to their lead.
Backman scored on the team's first SOG of the period at 7:38, which came after some good Hartford pressure. He just walked down the right wing boards, acted like he was going to pass to Shore and then fired a slapper past Skapski. Backman made up for the goal Hartford scored earlier while he'd been in the penalty box. It also ended up being the eventual game-winning-goal.
At 10:34, Vincent LoVerde was called for hooking. Manchester was unable to kill off this penalty as their best penalty killer just couldn't quite handle all of Danny Kristo 's shot, which was unscreened, from the top of the circle, beating him glove side. He got a piece of it, but not enough as Hartford pulled within two.
The Monarchs responded a few minutes later with a killer shift that hemmed the Wolf Pack in their zone for a good 30 seconds. Hartford got the puck out to the blue line but it wasn't far enough as O'Brien held it at the line while waiting for his teammates to tag up. The Wolf Pack had control of the puck and were attempting to break out of their own zone when O'Brien found himself alone at the faceoff dot to Skapski's right. He picked off an errant pass and, in a move nearly identical to Backman's, O'Brien fired off a slapshot that beat Hartford's netminder clean. It was an important insurance goal that really put a dagger on the Wolf Pack's hopes of coming back.
With two and a half minutes remaining in the game, Nic Dowd meant to play the puck off the boards but got too much lift under it and ended up with a delay of game penalty. At the same time, Hartford pulled their netminder in the hopes of tying the game.
On the one hand, it was a bad penalty to take at a crucial time. But on the other hand, with an empty net at the other end, the Monarchs were free to aim for the open cage without icing repercussions. This time, Manchester did kill off the penalty with little to no threat of Hartford scoring.
Monarchs iced the puck with 5.8 seconds left and despite Dowd winning the faceoff cleanly, Monarchs do a poor job of clearing the zone and Hartford scored with one tenth of a second left in the game. The guys were all pretty much just standing around since there was only three seconds remaining and the win was all but guaranteed. It was a silly goal to give up and one that probably made Head Coach Mike Stothers a little upset.
Just FYI, there is no need to adjust your volume with these videos -- there is no sound.
Notes and Statistics
Manchester Monarchs 15 Playoffs Individual Stats
|14||David Van der Gulik||LW||9||2||5||7||4||2||0||0||13||15.4|
- Berube gave up one bad goal, but otherwise was great and made some excellent stops.
- Mersch-Weal-O'Neill might be the best/hottest line still playing. They've teamed up for something like 75% (a real rough estimate) of Manchester's goals.
- Monarchs' PP is absolutely dreadful. It's completely embarrassing at this point.
- Their PK hasn't been so hot lately, either. They'll need to be much more disciplined and better overall if they want to move on.
- Mersch was hurt in the game, but he didn't take another shift despite returning to the bench.
- Weal continues to impress, despite not scoring a goal in his last few contests.
- Five different players scored all five goals, so this whole "win by committee" thing is going well for Manchester.
Manchester Monarchs 15 Playoffs Schedule
Manchester will go for the sweep and a berth in the Calder Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. If not, they'll try to close out the series in Game 5 at home.