PORTLAND — For the last time in American Hockey League history, the Portland Pirates hosted the Manchester Monarchs. 

The rivalry, which began in 2001 with Manchester’s inception into the league, has been competitive, memorable and chippy. It was all of those things once again Friday night. 

The Monarchs’ farewell gift was a victory as Nic Dowd scored the game-winning goal at 4:28 of overtime for a 4-3 win over Portland in Manchester’s final regular season visit to Cross Insurance Arena.

“I’ve been here for three years and every time we play them it’s a pretty fun game to be in,” Pirates forward Brendan Shinnimin said. “It’s a playoff atmosphere every time and, like you’ve seen tonight, it’s really chippy and guys are leaving it all out there. We play them two more times, but it’s always nice when you play them at home so it’s going to be different.” 

The Monarchs will move to Ontario, Calif., next year to be closer to their NHL affiliate, the L.A. Kings. The teams meet two more times in Manchester.

Dowd ended it moments into the 3-on-3 portion of the extra session. After a turnover in Portland’s defensive zone, Michael Mersch hit a streaking Dowd, who put a move on goaltender Mike McKenna before sliding it 5-hole for the win. 

Justin Auger forced the extra session for the Monarchs, knotting the game with 9:05 left in regulation. 

The Pirates jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, although it ended up being short-lived. Skating short-handed with Henrik Samuelsson in the box for hooking, Shinnimin was in the right place at the right time. Shinnimin deflected a shot in front off a shot from Justin Hodgman at the left circle and past Manchester goaltender Jean-Francois Berube to give Portland a 1-0 lead at 6:55 of the first period.  

“I thought Shinnimin was one of our best players tonight,” Pirates coach Ray Edwards said. “I thought Hodgey was good tonight. We’re going to need everybody to be good and that’s the reality of it going down the stretch here.” 

Manchester’s response came a mere nine seconds later. With two Portland defensemen draped all over him near the far boards, Manchester’s Brian O’Neill slid a pass to an open Jordan Weal in the slot. Weal one-timed a shot 5-hole by McKenna to tie the game. 

The Monarch’s needed more than six minutes to record their first shot on goal, yet they took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. They grabbed the lead at 13:41 when Dowd lifted a shot short-side over McKenna’s shoulder after Paul Bissonnette found his teammate in front with a no-look backhand pass from the point. 

The power-play unit helped the Pirates turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead in the second period. Portland struck twice with the man advantage to take a 3-2 lead into the final frame. 

“They know exactly what we’re trying to do, it’s just executing it,” Edwards said. “You get some execution on it and it makes everything look a lot better.” 

After his short-handed tally in the first, Shinnimin got his second special team’s goal, this one to tie the game, 2-2, at 11:20 of the second period. Shinnimin collected his own rebound in the slot for his 20th goal of the season, tying Alex Bolduc for the team lead. 

“Special teams in general is a huge part of the game,” Shinnimin said. “To have our power play starting to click now coming down the stretch into the playoffs is going to be key for us.” 

Philip Samuelsson struck two minutes later to give the Pirates the lead with a blast from the point. 

NOTES: With the overtime loss, the Pirates picked up a crucial point in the hunt for a playoff spot. They currently sit in eighth with 81 points. Portland began the night a point back of both Providence and Hartford and two points back of Worcester, which the Pirates play Tuesday. All three won their respective games Friday and gained a point on Portland. The Pirates do have a game in hand of both Providence and Hartford.  

The Pirates’ lead for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference remained at two after Friday. Springfield had a chance to gain a point on Portland, but lost in a shootout to Albany. Portland has three more games to play compared to Springfield, which is down to its final five games of the regular season. The Pirates and Falcons meet tonight in Springfield for their fourth and final meeting. Portland has won the first three. 


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