5-3 Loss in Game Three Pushes Pack to the Brink

May 26, 2015

Nick Shore and Zach O’Brien had a goal and an assist each for the Manchester Monarchs Tuesday night at the XL Center, to lead Manchester to a 5-3 win over the Wolf Pack in Game Three of the teams’ best-of-seven, Eastern Conference Final series.

Manchester now leads the series three games to none, and the Wolf Pack will have to win Game Four of the series Wednesday night at home to avoid a sweep.

Chad Nehring, Danny Kristo and Joey Crabb scored the Wolf Pack goals, and Mat Bodie had two assists.  Adrian Kempe and Brian O’Neill also scored for the Monarchs, and J-F Berube made 17 saves.  Mackenzie Skapski stopped 29 shots in the Wolf Pack net, in his first pro playoff start.

“It’s a fun challenge (coming back from a 3-0 series deficit),” said Wolf Pack defenseman Michael Kostka.  “We’ve got a lot of guys who have gone through character-building experiences, or games and seasons, with other teams.  Those are kind of the fun ones to come back from.  It’s one of those, yeah you can say your back is against the wall but also it’s a situation where you have nothing to lose.  I think that’s our mindset for tomorrow night is to leave it all out there and give it our best shot.”

Just past the five-minute mark in the first period, the Monarchs struck first with a rebound goal.  Andrew Bodnarchuk fired a shot from the outside the faceoff circle with a few bodies in front of Skapski.  It was Shore who was able to get a stick on the bouncing puck in front of the net for his 10th point of the post-season.

“The one thing they’ve (the Monarchs) really done a good job at is getting off to a good start,” said Kostka.  “It seems like we’ve been playing from behind in every game that we’ve been in.  We’re looking to shift the tide here a little bit, we’re going to have to get out to a better start.”

After struggling to get pucks to the net in the early parts of the game, the Pack were able to capitalize on a power-play opportunity to tie the game at one.  With one second left on a man-advantage, Mat Bodie fired a slap pass from the top of the right faceoff circle.  Nehring was standing at the side of the net and was able to redirect the puck past Berube for Nehring’s second goal of the playoffs.

With just 33.9 seconds remaining in the first twenty minutes, Manchester took a 2-1 lead.  Jordan Weal drew the defense’s attention with a shot fake and then passed the puck across to O’Neill.  O’Neill fired a one-timer in to the open net for his eighth goal of the postseason.

The Monarchs took a 3-1 lead after a battle in the crease for the puck.  A shot trickled in the crease when Allen went to push the puck in to Skapski.  Skapski was diving back toward the net and the puck got pushed passed the goal line.  Shore was credited with his second goal of the game on the play, at 5:05 of the second.

“We’ve come in waves, and when we are playing our best hockey throughout the game we’re outplaying them.  When we’re not, they’re taking it to us,” said Kostka.  “I don’t think we’ve put together a 60-minute game yet in this series and it’s shown.”

Manchester added to their lead with 12:22 left in the third.  Backman came down on a two-on-one and rifled a slap shot over Skapski’s pad for his twelfth point of the playoffs.

Hartford then was able to take advantage of a power play opportunity, with a goal from Kristo.  He got the puck just inside the blue line and walked it to the top of the faceoff circle.  Kristo fired the shot with traffic in front and found the back of the net for his third of the postseason.

“I think the third was a little bit closer to how we wanted to play, “said Hartford coach Ken Gernander.  “We’re putting pucks behind their D, forecheck and getting our bumps, [and] certainly putting more pucks to the net.”

Shortly after, Manchester answered back after a turnover in the Hartford defensive zone.  O’Brien picked off a breakout pass at the blue line and drove toward Skapski.  O’Brien fired slap shot from top of faceoff circle and lit the lamp for Manchester’s fifth time as a team.

“When plays aren’t available to us, we have to put pucks in spots that aren’t as dangerous as some of the areas we were putting them in tonight,” said Gernander.

With 0.1 seconds left in the game, Crabb was able to tip in a shot by Kostka from the right point.  The goal extended Crabb’s point streak to nine games.

“You can tell it’s (coming from behind in a series) always about momentum.  All of a sudden, you get one win back, and you just have to chip away at it one game at a time,” said Kostka.  “I’ve been on the receiving end where you give a game to the other team, and all of a sudden you give up another one.  Now, you’re just up 3-2 and then the other team starts tightening up.  The biggest thing we’re focused on is tomorrow night, though.  You can’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

Game Four of the series is Wednesday night at the XL Center, with faceoff at 7:00 PM.  Wolf Pack playoff tickets are available at the Agera Energy Ticket Office at the XL Center, on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com and by phone at (877) 522-8499. 


Manchester Monarchs 5 at Hartford Wolf Pack 3
Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - XL Center

Manchester 2 1 2 - 5
Hartford 1 0 2 - 3

1st Period-1, Manchester, Shore 3 (Bodnarchuk), 5:11. 2, Hartford, Nehring 2 (Bodie, Allen), 13:47 (PP). 3, Manchester, O'Neill 8 (Weal), 19:26. Penalties-Forbort Mch (cross-checking), 5:29; Schultz Mch (goaltender interference), 10:10; Backman Mch (tripping), 11:48; Bodnarchuk Mch (roughing), 15:48; Klingberg Hfd (roughing), 15:48.

2nd Period-4, Manchester, Kempe 3 (Shore, O'Brien), 5:05. Penalties-Bodie Hfd (roughing), 5:30; Miller Mch (holding), 9:41.

3rd Period-5, Manchester, Backman 4 (Crescenzi), 7:38. 6, Hartford, Kristo 3 (Bodie, Klingberg), 12:16 (PP). 7, Manchester, O'Brien 2   14:00. 8, Hartford, Crabb 6 (Kostka), 19:59. Penalties-McIlrath Hfd (charging), 0:36; LoVerde Mch (hooking), 10:34; Dowd Mch (delay of game), 17:30.

Shots on Goal-Manchester 16-13-5-34. Hartford 4-7-9-20.
Power Play Opportunities-Manchester 0 / 2; Hartford 2 / 6.
Goalies-Manchester, Berube 10-3-0 (20 shots-17 saves). Hartford, Skapski 0-1-0 (34 shots-29 saves).
Referees-T.J. Luxmore (49), Terry Koharski (10).
Linesmen-John Grandt (98), Brent Colby (7).

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