The first period wasn't bad for the Manchester Monarchs, the Los Angeles Kings' top farm team. Unfortunately for them, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) were simply better.
After killing off an early penalty, the Monarchs and Penguins played a mostly even game until Bryan Rust broke the deadlock and beat J.F. Berube from the slot. I mean, it was a lovely pass from Conor Sheary and got Berube moving laterally. I don't know if Berube was screened or just missed it, but I suspect it was stoppable. I'll let you judge for yourself.
Yeah, that water bottle is done! Bryan Rust gets the @wbspenguins on the board early. #MCHvsWBS pic.twitter.com/oesUhsAHUO— AHL (@TheAHL) May 9, 2015
Manchester had two power play opportunities but were unable to convert on either of them and Vincent LoVerde took a penalty in the last 25 seconds of the second power play.
At the end of the first period, the Penguins had a 1-0 lead.
So it wasn't a horrible period for the Monarchs, but they were a little flat to begin with and then couldn't really seem to summon enough energy to mount a consistent attack.
The second period wasn't much better. In anything, it was worse. They took four more penalties and killed three of them.
Interestingly enough, their PK was pretty good as they had at least one shorthanded chance on most of their kills. And it's not that the Penguins' PP was bad because it's still the hottest power play in the AHL right now.
Berube was a bit slow to react on the Penguins' second goal, but I wouldn't say it was a totally awful goal to give up, especially on the man advantage. Even though it beat him short side blocker, the team's defense was running around and out of position.
Captain Non-stopoulos. #MCHvsWBS pic.twitter.com/BbGP9qcquF— AHL (@TheAHL) May 10, 2015
Manchester has yet to be perfect on the penalty kill through eight playoff games. It's a little disconcerting because they really need good special teams (or at least above average) to advance in the playoff games.
By the end of the second period, shots were 18-16 Monarchs but that was mostly a formality. Most of the shots were from the outside or one-on-one chances.
In the third period, the Monarchs took their fifth consecutive -- and sixth (!!!) overall -- penalty of the evening a little more than five minutes in. Manchester killed it off but took a while to get going after that.
David van der Gulik (remember him?) ruined Matt Murray's shutout with about four minutes remaining in the period and suddenly the Monarchs had life. They were great, drawing a tripping penalty and throwing everything they could at the net.
Unfortunately for them, it was too little too late. They couldn't get the equalizer and go on to a possible OT win.
Similar to Game 3 in Portland, the Monarchs came out a little flat to begin. There seemed to be a bit of low energy from the road team while the home team had a lot of jump in their step. The Penguins really fed off their crowd and the support from their fans while the Monarchs just couldn't quite seem to get it all together.
Nick Shore seems like he's starting to find his game again. He didn't score tonight but he came close several times (several glove saves and a cross-bar or a post) and he was one of a handful of Manchester's best players. Vincent LoVerde, Colin Miller and Michael Mersch were the others. Jordan Weal's line had a lot of trouble doing much of anything at all and seemed out of sync with each other. Adrian Kempe had a few good moves, but was mostly invisible in this game.
Conor Sheary has been a royal pain in the ass for Manchester as was Henrik Samuelsson of Portland. They're going to need to curtail him similar to the way Weal and his linemates were tonight. WBS is not known as a high scoring team and if Manchester contain their best players, they'll have a greater chance for success.
Murray was sensational in this game. He stopped 29 of 30 shots and was in the right position pretty much all night. And when he wasn't, he made excellent desperation saves and stopped several attempts in tight. He had two very notable saves on Michael Mersch who was parked in front of the net as per usual. The only time Murray really faltered was when van der Gulik deked and slipped the puck in just past Murray's outstretched leg.
While Murray was great, the Monarchs didn't really do enough to beat him. There was virtually no screening, there weren't many layers and no one was there for the rebound attempts. It reminded me strongly of the Kings in about mid-January when they'd allow the first goal and couldn't seem to climb out of the hole, mentally or emotionally, for the rest of the game.
They're going to need to learn to dig deep and channel their emotions on the road as they probably won't survive a seven-game series for the next three rounds. But that's thinking too far ahead. For now, they need to concentrate on Monday's game and try to get a road win.
Manchester Monarchs 15 Playoffs Individual Stats
|14||David Van der Gulik||LW||4||1||2||3||3||2||0||0||6||16.7|
Manchester Monarchs 15 Playoffs Schedule
The Monarchs will try to put a stranglehold on this series Monday and close it out Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. If they can't, they'll come back home to finish up the series.