MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Portland Pirates’ season came to an end in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Saturday.

The Pirates staved off elimination twice with consecutive homes victories in Game 3 and 4, respectively, but couldn’t do it for a third straight time on the road, falling 5-3 to the Manchester Monarchs in Game 5 at Verizon Wireless Arena. 

The brief lag that saw the Pirates surrender two goals in the first 30 seconds of Game 2 reared its ugly head in a 20-second span early in the third period of Game 5 that undid a three-goal comeback in the previous frame.

“We tried to come back, but the start of the third was disappointing because we had all the momentum and we started so poorly in the third,” Portland coach Ray Edwards said. “We turned the puck over and made a couple really bad mistakes. I didn’t expect that because we sort of had some momentum.” 

Michael Mersch put the Monarchs ahead for good with his second of the night 1:16 into the third period and Adrian Kempe followed that up with his first of the playoffs 20 seconds later on a circle-to-circle pass from Zach O’Brien. 

“They scored right away and then right away again,” Edwards said. “It looked to me that we were standing around a little bit. We didn’t get going. We didn’t start the way we should start. … You give this team five goals, that’s tough. It’s tough to score five or six goals against this team.” 

Entering Saturday’s contest, the Monarchs had lost their past four first round series and last five overall. Their last playoff series victory came back in 2009-10 against the Worcester Sharks. The Pirates have now lost three straight playoff series dating back to the 2010-11. Their last series win was against the Hartford Wolf Pack when they were the Connecticut Whale. 

Through the first four games, the team that scored first went on to win each game. That theme remained the same Saturday as the Monarchs found the back of the net at 1:42 of the first period when Mersch flipped in a rebound off the stick of Sean Backman.

“We have a really good team and those guys create space for you,” Mersch said. “You have to find your niche and mine’s been sitting in front of the net and creating space for the other guys.” 

The home team won all five games in the series. 

A misplay behind the net by Portland goaltender Louis Domingue led to Manchester’s second goal of the opening frame. After Domingue fanned on a pass, Manchester’s Andrew Crescenzi stole the puck and found Ryan Horvat in front for the empty-net goal. 

The Monarchs grabbed a 3-0 lead early in the third period, taking advantage of a five-minute major penalty to Portland’s Henrik Samuelsson for charging. With the man advantage, Jordan Weal scored his series-leading fifth goal of the playoffs, knocking in a bouncing puck to Domingue’s left at 3:44.

Samuelsson made up for the penalty and breathed some much-needed life into the Pirates. Samuelsson scored his second goal of the series while on the power play off a feed from Brandon Gormley to cut Manchester’s lead to 3-1. 

Portland wasn’t done, completing a furious second-period rally to tie the game, 3-3, at the end of the frame. Tyler Gaudet scored the Pirates’ second power-play goal of the night on a give-and-go from Jordan Szwarz. Gaudet fed a pass to Szwarz at the side of the Manchester net and Szwarz delivered the puck right back to him in front. Gaudet one-timed a shot past Manchester goaltender Jean-Francois Berube to pull within 3-2 with 3:47 left in the period. 

Brandon Shinnimin beat the buzzer to bring the Pirates all the way back with a shot from the far boards that slipped through the pads of Berube as the horn went off. The officials initially ruled the buzzer had sounded before the puck crossed the line, but reversed the call as review showed the puck crossing with five-tenths of a second left in the period. 

“You have to tip your cap to them,” Mersch said. “They didn’t give up all series and it showed in that second period when they came back with three straight goals in the second period.” 

The Game 5 meeting served as the last ever game between the two teams as the Monarchs will play in the ECHL next year. Their affiliation with the Los Angeles Kings will continue, with the Ontario Reign serving as the club’s AHL affiliate.

The Pirates will become the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers next year, ending a four-year relationship with the Phoenix Coyotes. The Springfield Falcons will become Phoenix’s new AHL affiliate. 

“When they made the announcement you start to think about those things,” Edwards said. “We’re going to miss everybody. We know in our business this stuff can happen. There’s a lot of great people in Portland, a lot of people we’ll miss.” 


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