WORCESTER 3, MANCHESTER 2
Benn Ferriero snapped a seven-game drought with a pair of goals and rookie goaltender Carter Hutton made 37 saves as travel-weary Worcester wrapped up its three-game weekend with a big 3-2 road win over Manchester on Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
The Sharks, who dropped games in Providence and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the past two nights before arriving in Manchester for Sunday’s early 3:00 ET puck-drop, remained four points back of Connecticut for the Atlantic Divisions’ third and final guaranteed playoff spot.
Worcester also stayed three points back of Binghamton for the potential crossover playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, after the Senators topped Bridgeport later on Sunday.
Patrick Davis gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead 12 minutes into the game, and Ferriero followed with a power play goal at 18:11 of the first period before extending the advantage to 3-0 in the second frame’s closing minute.
A second-year pro who has split the season between Worcester and parent-club San Jose, Ferriero has now tallied six of his 15 AHL goals (15-15-30) in 2010-11 against Manchester.
The Monarchs made a game of it in the third period, as Oscar Moller notched his 23rd goal of the season at 1:45 and Corey Elkins connected on the power play at 6:19. David Kolomatis assisted on both markers.
Hutton held the fort from there, though, and finished with 37 saves on 39 shots, his highest total since also making 37 stops at Providence back on Oct. 31. The rookie improved to 8-4-2 in 16 appearances for the year.
Manchester managed just three goals in dropping all three of its games over the weekend (0-2-1-0). The Monarchs (41-23-3-6, 91 points) are now two points back of Portland for first place in the Atlantic Division and have only seven games left in the season, compared with the Pirates’ 12.
CONNECTICUT 3, SPRINGFIELD 1
Connecticut continued surging and kept Springfield in free-fall on Sunday with a 3-1 win over the division-rival Falcons on Sunday at the XL Center.
Jeremy Williams, Dale Weise, and defenseman Pavel Valentenko nabbed goals for the Whale, who scored once in each period en route to their third straight victory and eighth in their last 10 games (8-2-0-0).
Connecticut goaltender Cameron Talbot made 22 saves on 23 shots and improved to 12-5-2 in 18 AHL appearances this season.
The Whale maintained their four-point lead on Worcester for a guaranteed playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, with 10 games remaining for both clubs.
Captain Ben Guite scored for the Falcons, who have now dropped 11 consecutive games (0-10-1-0).
PORTLAND 5, PROVIDENCE 3
Portland completed a perfect three-game road weekend and took over first place in the Atlantic Division with a 5-3 win over Providence on Sunday in front of 6,747 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The AHL’s leading scoring defenseman with 59 points (12-47-59) in 60 games, Marc-Andre Gragnani paced the Pirates in this one with a goal and three assists for his seventh multiple-point effort in the last 10 games.
Portland goaltender Jeff Jakaitis earned the victory with 27 saves on 30 shots. Jakaitis is 3-2-0 in five AHL appearances this season, and all three victories have come against Providence – two with the Pirates and one on Feb. 20 as a member of the Worcester Sharks.
The Pirates (43-18-5-2, 93 points), who emerged victorious in Binghamton and Hershey to begin the weekend, moved two points up on Manchester for the Atlantic’s top spot and still holds five games in hand on the Monarchs.
Portland also remained eight points back of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for first overall in the AHL.
TEXAS 5, MANITOBA 1
Greg Rallo scored three times for his first career AHL hat trick, and Texas earned a split of its two-game visit to Winnipeg with a 5-1 win over Manitoba on Sunday in front of 11,889 fans at the MTS Centre.
Rallo extended a career high by nabbing his team-leading 22nd, 23rd, and 24th goals of the season, and he has also now registered a career-best 46 points (24-22-46) in 70 games, eclipsing the 44 points he put up for the Stars last year.
Rallo, who took a game-high seven shots, connected once in each period and capped off his hat trick with an empty-net, shorthanded tally late in the third.
Sean Backman (1-1-2) and Mathieu Tousignant rounded out the Stars’ offense; Travis Morin and defenseman Maxime Fortunus each posted two assists; and rookie goaltender Richard Bachman (23-16-5) turned aside 31 of 32 shots between the pipes.
The victory sends Texas (36-24-4-6) into sole possession of third place in the West Division, one point up on Peoria, Oklahoma City, and Chicago.
The Moose fell into a first-place tie with Peoria atop the North Division at 82 points apiece, and Manitoba has played one more game than the Monsters.
GRAND RAPIDS 5, ROCKFORD 3
Tomas Tatar led the way with a pair of goals – including the game-winner – and Grand Rapids moved up to third place in the North Division with a 5-3 win over visiting Rockford before 8,113 fans at Van Andel Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The Griffins, who finished 2-1-0-0 in a stretch of three home games in as many days, are now 11-2-1-0 in their last 14 games and have moved one point ahead of Hamilton and two points up on Toronto for the North’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot.
Tatar notched his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season, and his power play tally at 16:05 of the third period proved to be the difference.
Grand Rapids rookie goaltender Jordan Pearce (19-8-5) secured the victory with 31 saves on 34 shots in net.
The IceHogs trailed 5-1 before Kyle Hagel (19:02) and Jassen Cullimore (19:30) each scored in the game’s closing minute to make things interesting. Cullimore registered a pair of goals for Rockford, which fell to 1-3-0-0 in its last four outings.
CHICAGO 4, OKLAHOMA CITY 0
Rookie goaltender Edward Pasquale made 34 saves for his first career AHL shutout as Chicago bounced back from Saturday’s loss to record a 4-0 win over visiting Oklahoma City in the back end of a two-game set at Allstate Arena on Sunday.
The Wolves (36-26-3-6, 81 points) moved into a tie with Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s crossover playoff spot, and both clubs have nine games remaining.
The 20-year-old Pasquale improved to 4-1-1 in his last six appearances and 9-7-1 in 18 AHL appearances for the season. He made 27 of his 34 saves over the final two periods as Oklahoma City tried to get back in the game.
Chicago used specialty teams to score all four of its goals, nabbing three on the power play and one shorthanded. Rookie Tim Miller notched the shorthanded marker midway through the opening period, while Jason Krog scored twice and Mark Matheson once on the man advantage.
The Wolves entered the day with the AHL’s fifth-ranked power play overall (20.2 percent).
Krog (2-1-3) and Darren Haydar (0-3-3) each finished with three assists for the Wolves, who earned their first shutout as a team all season.
Oklahoma City saw its four-game points streak (2-0-0-2) come to an end and will continue a nine-game road swing on Tuesday in Milwaukee.
HOUSTON 3, SAN ANTONIO 2 (SO)
Houston rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits in regulation and then converted three of its five shootout tries to emerge with a 3-2 road win over San Antonio on Sunday at the AT&T Center.
With their fourth consecutive victory, the Aeros (41-25-1-8, 88 points) moved one point up on idle Milwaukee for first place in the West Division, although the Admirals still hold three games in hand with three weeks to go in the regular season.
Aeros captain Jon DiSalvatore notched his team-leading 23rd goal of the season six minutes into the second frame, and Cody Almond buried his 14th of the year at 7:08 of the third period, tying the game at 2-2.
Patrick O’Sullivan, Robbie Earl, and Chad Rau netted shootout goals for Houston, and rookie goaltender Matt Hackett (19-13-4) stopped three of San Antonio’s five tries after making 37 saves through the first 65 minutes.
O’Sullivan contributed two assists in regulation for Houston, which beat the Rampage for the second time in as many days following a 5-1 win in San Antonio on Saturday.
LAKE ERIE 4, PEORIA 3
Lake Erie built a 3-1 lead heading into the third period and held off a Peoria rally to emerge with a 4-3 win over the host Rivermen on Sunday at Carver Arena.
The red-hot Monsters (36-25-3-8, 82 points) earned their third road win in as many nights, finished a perfect 5-0-0-0 on a five-game road trip, and moved into a tie with Manitoba for first place in the North Division.
Lake Erie, which joined the AHL in 2007-08, is looking to make its first-ever trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Julian Talbot, Scott Ford, David Van der Gulik, and Greg Mauldin all scored for the Monsters, with Mauldin’s unassisted tally at 11:40 of the third period standing up as the game-winner. Monsters goaltender John Grahame (17-10-2) earned the victory with 30 stops in net.
Peoria (37-26-2-5, 81 points) now sits in a three-way tie for fourth place in the West Division along with Oklahoma City and Chicago.
BINGHAMTON 4, BRIDGEPORT 3 (OT)
Kaspars Daugavins capped off a three-point effort with the game-winning goal at 4:13 of overtime as Binghamton escaped with a 4-3 road win over last-place Bridgeport on Sunday at the Webster Bank Arena.
With their first back-to-backs wins during the month of March, the Senators (36-27-3-4) maintained a three-point lead over Worcester for the Eastern Conference’s crossover playoff spot. Both teams have 10 games left to play.
Ryan Keller scored twice and Ryan Potulny once in regulation for the Senators, who held a 3-2 advantage in the closing minute of regulation before Sound Tigers rookie David Ullstrom tied it up with 29 seconds left.
Jeremy Colliton and Justin DiBenedetto joined Ullstrom in netting goals for the Sound Tigers, and Rhett Rakhshani (17-34-51) chipped in two helpers to move within two points of Portland’s Luke Adam in the AHL rookie scoring race.
SYRACUSE 5, HERSHEY 2
Rookie forward Kyle Palmieri capped off a fabulous weekend with two more goals – including his third game-winner in as many nights – as Syracuse traveled to Hershey and knocked off the Bears by a 5-2 count on Sunday in front of 10,635 fans at the Giant Center.
Palmieri, who scored the game’s only goal in Friday’s win over Toronto and nabbed his first pro hat trick on Saturday vs. Charlotte, broke a 2-2 deadlock 12:42 into Sunday’s third period and buried a late empty-netter for his 20th goal of the season.
Goaltender Jean-Philippe Levasseur earned the victory with 30 saves in net, as the Crunch improved to 7-2-0-0 in their last nine games and won for the second time in as many trips to the Giant Center this season.
Syracuse, which in turn has dropped all three home meetings with the Bears, previously earned a 4-2 victory in Hershey on Dec. 31.
Kyle Greentree tallied both goals for the Bears, who are now off until traveling to Adirondack on Friday.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 2, CHARLOTTE 1
Less than 24 hours after becoming the first AHL team to clinch a spot in the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton became the first to reach the 50-win and 100-point plateaus courtesy of a 2-1 triumph over visiting Charlotte at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday.
The Penguins improved to 50-18-0-1 for 101 points and have cracked the 100-point mark for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Wilkes-Barre’s 50 wins are just one shy of the franchise-record 51 victories attained by the 2005-06 and 2006-07 clubs.
Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen appeared headed for what would have been a league-leading eighth shutout of the campaign, but Checkers forward Chris Terry finally broke it up with just five seconds left in regulation.
Thiessen still picked up his AHL-best 31st victory of the year (31-7-1), finishing with 25 saves on 26 shots.
Charlotte remained tied with Norfolk for third place in the East Division but has played three more games than the Admirals.