Manchester, NH – The Portland Pirates needed a win to ensure themselves a date with the Providence Bruins in the first round of the Atlantic Division playoffs.
They got the win, but not without a few tense moments, as the Pirates defeated the Manchester Monarchs, 5-4, in front of 8,020 at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday night.
The win by Portland gave them a one point cushion over the Worcester Sharks, regardless of the outcome in their match with the Bruins. Worcester won, 3-0.
Much like last night, the Pirates needed to rally from behind as the Monarchs built a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
The comeback began when Colton Fretter burst into the zone, dishing the puck to Tyler Bouck from the top of the crease as he edged the puck behind Monarchs’ netminder Dan Taylor just 1:45 into the period, cutting the Monarchs lead, 2-1.
At 6:58, Nathan Gerbe, in the slot, ripped a shot over the shoulder of Taylor as the Pirates scored on the power play goal for the 21st time in their last 23 games.
With 2:37 left in the period, the Pirates took their first lead of the night on a goal from Matt Generous, his first professional goal, since joining the Pirates from St. Lawrence University.
Mark Mancari ripped a shot toward the net that Generous got a piece of it with his stick, redirecting it by Taylor for a 3-2 lead with just 20 minutes left to play.
Manchester tied the game early in the third period before the Pirates exploded for a pair of goals from Colton Fretter and Nathan Gerbe.
With the game tied on a goal by Matt Moulson, the Pirates regained the lead after Fretter picked up a turnover from Scott Parse in the Monarchs zone and raced down the ice where he blasted a laser picking the far corner to give the Pirates 4-3 lead at 6:40 of the third period.
Nathan Gerbe scored his 30th of the season only 1:35 later as he sent a wrist shot by Taylor, giving the Pirates a 5-3 lead at 8:15 of the period.
The goal ended the night for Taylor as he was replaced by Jonathan Bernier.
Manchester made one last desperate rush, pulling to within a goal, 5-4, as Viatcheslav Voynov scored on a 6-on-4 man advantage with 1:03 left in the game.
It would be as close the Monarchs would get. Kellen Briggs, in his first start since Mar. 22, stopped 25 of 29 shots on the night for the win.
NOTES: The Pirates will begin the first round of the Atlantic Division Semi-Finals with Game 1 on Wednesday in Providence, Rhode Island. Game 2 will follow on Friday night before returning home for Games 3 and 4 at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Sunday and Thursday.