MANCHESTER — The 7,004 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena got their money’s worth Saturday night.
The Manchester Monarchs’ home opener against the Providence Bruins was a back-and-forth affair that went to overtime and then a shootout before the Monarchs came away with a 5-4 win.
It was the second shootout win over Providence (2-2-2) by Manchester in two meetings this season. The Monarchs have played in five shootouts in six games this season, winning three of them.
“We got a lead and had a hard time hanging on to it. (We had) some risky plays and poor decisions that allowed them back in the game,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “We got the two points, but it wasn’t exactly how we drew it up and we should have had that win in regulation much like we should have had (Friday’s shootout win in Hartford) in regulation. We got two points, but it doesn’t feel like it.”
In the shootout, Manchester’s Tyler Toffoli roofed a shot glove-side and Andy Andreoff faked a slap shot and then slid the puck through Niklas Svedberg’s five-hole for two goals in four Monarchs attempts.
Manchester goalie Martin Jones stopped all four Bruins shooters he faced to give the Monarchs a 2-0 margin of victory in the shootout.
Providence scored with just 24.1 seconds remaining in regulation, tying the game at 4-4 and forcing the extra hockey. Carter Camper won a faceoff in the left circle in the Manchester end, getting the puck to Seth Griffith, who passed to Matt Fraser for a shot from the slot to beat Jones.
It was the third time in the game that Providence had come back to tie the score.
“That’s what happens when guys don’t take responsibility for their jobs,” Morris said. “Our systems are in place and if we execute them, they work. But we seem to want to deviate at some pretty important points in the game and every game has its defining moments. We caved in a little bit in those instances.”
Manchester appeared poised to win in regulation when Robbie Czarnik scored his first goal of the season to take a 4-3 lead with 3:24 remaining in the game. Defenseman Colin Miller’s shot missed the net and Brian O’Neill collected the puck behind the cage and made a nifty backhand pass to Czarnik in the slot for a one-time blast top shelf past the blocker of Svedberg.
Providence had come back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game at 3-3.
Trailing 3-1, Providence pulled back within a goal at 8:16 of the third period with a shorthanded tally. Alexander Fallstrom raced in alone on the Manchester cage, but was denied by Jones. The rebound popped in the air and hit trailing Bruin Justin Florek, then bounced into the net.
The goal was initially waived off, the officials ruling that Florek had played the puck in with his hand or arm. But after a video review it was ruled a legal goal.
The Bruins tied the game at 3-3 at 13:33. Defenseman David Warsofky’s shot was stopped by Jones, but Griffith was camped on the right post and banged the rebound home to set the stage for the final two goals and eventual overtime.
The Monarchs took a 1-0 lead at 5:09 of the first period. Jordan Weal came through center ice with the puck and some speed, racing deep into the left circle before sending a backhand pass to Tanner Pearson in the low slot for a one-timer past Svedberg for his third goal of the season.
Kevan Miller tied the game for Providence at 7:40. A Joe Morrow slap shot from the right point was blocked, but the puck came right back to Morrow and his floater toward the net was deflected by Miller in front of a screened Jones for the equalizer.
Manchester broke a 1-1 tie at 6:14 of the second period on defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk’s second goal of the season. Linden Vey chipped the puck to Bodnarchuk on the right point and he drifted left before sending a shot along the ice that beat Svedberg five-hole.
The Monarchs pushed the lead to 3-1 at 15:18 of the second on O’Neill’s first goal of the year. Defenseman Vincent LoVerde’s shot from the right side was tipped by O’Neill in the slot, finding the back of the net.