If there’s one thing about this particular Connecticut Whale team it’s that they can lull you to sleep and then suddenly snap out of it and look like world beaters. Friday night they never woke up dropping a 3-2 decision to the Portland Pirates. That comatose-like effort carried through the first two periods Sunday afternoon, but when they finally did awaken, they scored three unanswered goals in a mere 3:37 at the Verizon Wireless Arena and then held on for a 3-2 behind some spectacular goal tending from Chad Johnson over the Manchester Monarchs.
“We’re happy to get a road win and get back on track here,” Whale head coach Ken Gernander told Brian Ring of the team’s four game road losing streak (0-3-1-0).
Both Johnson (18-12-5, 31 saves) and Manchester’s Jeff Zatkoff (16-13-1, 39 saves) kept their respective teams in the game and were not giving an inch through the first two periods.
Zatkoff was solid in keeping the puck out of his net as the Whale did all they could to score during a 1:29 five-on-three power play after Justin Azevedo went off for Hooking at 11:39 and then former New York Ranger draft pick Marc-Andre Cliché joined him in the sin bin at 12:11 for High-Sticking Whale defenseman, Brendan Bell. Johnson was equal to the task in the first twenty minutes and caught a break when, with just 22.2 left in the period, Brandon Kozun hit the crossbar from the left circle.
The two netminders answered each other with back-to-back great saves midway through the period as Johnson stopped Cliché from in the low slot one-on-one with him and then on the ensuing rush back the other way, Zatkoff rose up to the challenge that first coming off the stick of Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, followed up a couple of moments later by another stop, this one on Casey Wellman in front of the net and then with just 1:25 to go in the second frame, Zatkoff robbed Mats Zuccarello to the point that afterwards “The Norwegian Hobbit just stood in the slot looking up at the ceiling and shaking his head in disgust.
With twenty seconds left in the second, Kris Newbury took a questionable tripping call to Stefan Legein from rookie referee Darcy Burchell for what appeared to be a legitimate hip check. Legein clearly embellished the play and obviously Burchell bought it.
33 seconds into the third period, that Legein’s sales job paid off when the Monarchs scored.
The puck was down low in the left corner of the Whale’s zone. Kelsey Tessier and newly minted captain Wade Redden battled with Trent Hunter and Jake Muzzin. Hunter worked the puck from Tessier and sent it down low to Muzzin and Redden. Muzzin won the battle for the puck from Redden and came out of the corner and found Justin Azevedo all alone in front of Johnson. Muzzin’s pass eluded Pavel Valentenko’s stick and went perfectly to Azevedo’s tape. Azevedo simply redirected the puck into the back of the net over Johnson’s glove to make it a 1-0 deficit.
The way the Whale were playing and as strong between the pipes as Zatkoff looked, things didn’t seem bright for the visitors. But that changed quickly.
At 8:06, Tim Erixon fed the puck into the left corner to Tommy Grant. Grant put a pass that looked like it jumped over the stick of Audy-Marchessault, past the leg of Nick Deslauriers and right to the outreached tape of the stick of Andre Deveaux who tallied his 19th of the season. The scorers gave credit to Audy-Marchessault for directing the puck up to Deveaux. It was 1-1.
After a good drive by Zuccarello was thwarted at 10:19, he and Richard Clune got into some rough stuff behind the net and both went off on matching roughing calls putting the teams four-on-four for two minutes.
Off the ensuing faceoff in the Manchester zone, Newbury won it cleanly from Andrei Loktionov back to Valentenko at the left point. Meanwhile Newbury rushed to the front of the net just as Valentenko unloaded one of his Russian Missiles. Newbury got a stick on it and the puck found it’s way past Zatkoff’s glove and into the back of the net. The goal was Newbury’s team leading 20th of the season at 10:23.
But they weren’t through yet.
After a sliding Bell deflated a 2-on-1 Manchester odd man rush, the puck went to Time Erixon who fed Tessier heading up the left wing as Bell joined him on a 2-on-1 the other way against Patrick Mullen. Tessier darted to the front of the net but Mullen’s outreached stick temporarily dislodged it from the Whale center. Tessier stuck with it, regained control and fired it past Zatkoff for his tenth of the season to make it 3-1.
But Johnson was determined that if Manchester was going to score again, it wasn’t going to come easily.
With 4:20 to go, Johnson made a tremendous stop on Legein in front of the net to keep it a two goal game. Zatkoff did his part to give his team the chance to get back in it when he stopped two good chances for Audy-Marchessault and then another from Newbury with just 1:19 left.
The Monarchs pulled Zatkoff for an extra attacker with about a minute to go. Thomas Hickey fired a shot from the high slot. The puck hit Johnson’s pads and rebounded in front where Azevedo dueled Redden and won that fight and flipped the puck past the glove of Johnson to tally the final score with just 3.7 seconds left.
Gernander was direct about the importance of getting back in the “W” column with a road win. “It’s been a couple games without a road win, so it’s an important one.”
Now the real challenge comes next Friday and Saturday with two key games. Friday night, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers who have been on a tear since the turn of the calendar and are on an 8-1-0-1 streak in their last ten come for a battle for first place in the XL Center. On Saturday the Norfolk Admirals, who the Whale have not beaten in their three previous meetings (0-2-1-0) and who are the AHL’s best team and winners of twelve straight will be a monstrous challenge for the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate.
Ian Clark will have the story at UnionLeader.com.
(Courtesy of The CTWhale)
(Courtesy of The Manchester Monarchs)
Highlights/Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris’ post-game reaction:
(Standings provided by TheAHL.com)
* The Whale are 14-8-5-5 in one goal games
* 8-5-2-1 is the record going into the third period tied.
* The Whale have beaten Manchester all three times they’ve played this season and visit Manchester again next Sunday.
* The Whale have outscored Manchester by a combined tally of 12-3 in the three games they’ve played this season.
Audy-Marchessault – Newbury – Deveaux
Thuresson – Wellman – Zuccarello
Grant – Tessier – Bourque
Prough – Owens – Tanski
REDDEN – Erixon
Valentenko – Vernace
Bell – Nightingale
(Captain in CAPS / Assistant Captains are Italicized)
Francois Bouchard – Broken Wrist – Indefinite
Chad Kolarik – Knee – Two-to-Three Weeks
Chris McKelvie – Healthy Scratch
Sam Klassen – Healthy Scratch
Sean Avery – Healthy Scratch
1. CT – K. Newbury
2. CT – K. Tessier
3. MCH – J. Azevedo
ON ICE OFFICIALS:
Darcy Burchell (42)
Jeremy Lovett (78)
Brian MacDonald (72)
Perhaps the most important game to this point in the season comes Friday night when the battle for first place in the division comes to the forefront at the XL Center between the CTWhale and the visiting Bridgeport Sound Tigers. You can hear all the action on WCCC.com starting at 6:50pm.
To watch the game live, you can purchased it for $6.99 at AHL-live.
For Ticket information for all home games, call (860) 548-2000.
Connecticut Whale 3 at Manchester Monarchs 2 – Status: Final
Sunday, March 4, 2012 – Verizon Wireless Arena
Connecticut 0 0 3 – 3
Manchester 0 0 2 – 2
1st Period– No Scoring.Penalties-Nightingale Ct (fighting), 9:43; Johnson Mch (fighting), 9:43; Newbury Ct (interference), 9:58; Azevedo Mch (hooking), 11:39; Cliche Mch (high-sticking), 12:11.
2nd Period– No Scoring.Penalties-Deveaux Ct (delay of game), 3:57; Newbury Ct (tripping), 19:40.
3rd Period-1, Manchester, Azevedo 14 (Muzzin, Hunter), 0:33 (PP). 2, Connecticut, Deveaux 19 (Audy-Marchessault, Grant), 8:06. 3, Connecticut, Newbury 20 (Valentenko), 10:23. 4, Connecticut, Tessier 10 (Erixon, Bell), 11:43. 5, Manchester, Azevedo 15 (Hickey, Kolomatis), 19:56. Penalties-Clune Mch (boarding), 3:08; Wellman Ct (holding), 3:13; Zuccarello Ct (roughing), 10:19; Clune Mch (roughing), 10:19.
Shots on Goal-Connecticut 9-17-16-42. Manchester 9-13-11-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Connecticut 0 / 3; Manchester 1 / 4.
Goalies-Connecticut, Johnson 18-12-5 (33 shots-31 saves). Manchester, Zatkoff 16-13-1 (42 shots-39 saves).
Referees-Darcy Burchell (42).
Linesmen-Jeremy Lovett (78), Brian MacDonald (72).