MANCHESTER — A battle between two of the top teams in the AHL lived up to its billing.
The Springfield Falcons escaped town with a 4-3 shootout win over the Manchester Monarchs in front of 4,217 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Friday night.
The Northeast Division-leading Falcons improved to 33-15-5. The Atlantic Division and AHL-leading Monarchs dropped to 34-14-8 and will host Portland tonight at 7 p.m. and Worcester Sunday at 3 p.m.
Springfield was able to beat Manchester goaltender Martin Jones, who will be headed back to Los Angeles in the next few days to rejoin the Kings, for two goals in the shootout. Falcons goalie Mike McKenna stopped all four Manchester shooters he faced.
Andrew Joudrey beat Jones five-hole on the Falcons’ first shot and Jonathan Marchessault snapped a shot past Jones’ stick in round three to give Springfield the winning margin in the shootout.
Both teams had solid chances in the overtime. McKenna robbed Manchester’s Zach O’Brien point-blank with a left pad save with two minutes remaining and then 40 seconds later Joudrey rang a shot off the left post.
Manchester’s Jordan Weal tied the game at 3-3 with 1:49 remaining. Jones started the play, sending the puck to Weal racing up the right side. Weal got to the right faceoff circle and ripped a slap shot past the glove of McKenna and under the bar.
The Falcons broke a 2-2 tie with former University of New Hampshire (and Junior Monarchs) winger Paul Thompson’s second goal of the night at 10:42 of the third period. Tim Erixon’s shot from the left point hit a body in front and Jones managed to adjust and make the save, but it bounced around before Thompson was able to bang the rebound home.
Trailing 2-1, the Monarchs came out flying to start the third period, registering solid scoring chances that eventually led to the tying goal at 6:08. Weal won a faceoff in the Springfield end and Sean Backman got the puck to Nick Shore at the left point for a slap shot through traffic and over McKenna’s shoulder.
Springfield took a 1-0 lead at 4:01 of the first period on a goal from Thompson. Collins carried in on the left side and passed across to Darryl Boyce, who drove to the net before turning to pass back to Thompson in the slot for a shot to beat Jones low.
The Falcons extended to a 2-0 lead at 7:28 on a shorthanded goal from Boyce. Jake Hensen sent Boyce in one-on-one with Monarchs defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk and Boyce left Bodnarchuk behind with a deke in the left circle before cutting to the net and roofing a backhand shot past Jones’ glove.
The Monarchs got one back in the second period, notching the only goal of that frame. Vincent LoVerde’s blast from above the right circle was kicked out by McKenna, but the rebound went to Shore on the left side for a rebound shot off McKenna’s shoulder and in to make it 2-1 at 5:34.
Colin Fraser, who has played 33 games with the L.A. Kings this season, skated in his first game as a Monarch on Friday night.