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Azevedo scores in OT to lead Monarchs

All the Manchester Monarchs wanted to do was keep playing.

After Monday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Hershey Bears, the Monarchs assured themselves of at least two more games.

Justin Azevedo sent the rebound of a Dwight King shot into an open net at 2:43 of overtime to give the Monarchs the win in Game 3 of the AHL’s Eastern Conference Final. Hershey still leads the series 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

Regardless of the outcome of that game, there will also be a Game 5 on Thursday in Manchester, and that was the most important thing for the Monarchs, according to Azevedo.

“We don’t want to go home yet,” Azevedo said. “Especially being at home, we have two more games here, and hopefully we can take advantage. This win was huge. A lot of the guys in that room, a lot of them believe we can beat this team.”

John Zeiler and Gabe Gauthier also scored for the Monarchs, their goals coming just 1:38 apart in the third period to tie the game at 2 and give Manchester life in the game and the series.

“It feels awfully good to get a win under our belts, and get a little bit of puck luck,” Manchester coach Mark Morris said. “We hadn’t had much in the first two games. I thought we got stronger as the game went on.”

After being outshot in the first period, the Monarchs controlled play in the final 40-plus minutes of action. Manchester held a 32-12 advantage in shots over that time, thanks largely to seven power play opportunities, including a 4-on-3 and a short 5-on-3 in the second period.

But the Monarchs were unable to score with that advantage, and when Mathieu Perreault made it 2-0 at 3:55 of the third period, Manchester looked to be in trouble.

“We know we were playing well, you just have to build on it” Azevedo said. “You’ve got to stay positive, especially in the playoffs. Confidence is huge. We weren’t getting the bounces, but we knew we had to stick to our game plan and eventually it would go in.”

The puck finally did at 5:44 of the third, when Zeiler redirected a shot by Jacob Muzzin past Hershey goalie Michal Neuvirth. Less than two minutes later, a shot by Andrei Loktionov went off the leg of Gauthier and past Neuvirth to tie the game.

Azevedo’s goal came after he won a battle for the puck against the boards, and after skating to the center of the Hershey zone, he dropped a pass for King and charged to the net. King took a shot to Neuvirth’s right, leaving the net open when the rebound went right Azevedo.

“I just tapped it in,” he said.

Alexandre Giroux gave Hershey the lead in the first period on a power play goal at 17:26. Giroux backhanded a pass from Chris Bourque over the shoulder of Jonathan Bernier, who finished with 23 saves, to make it 1-0.

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