LEWISTON — The Lewiston Maineiacs gave their fans a reason to throw all of their stuffed animals onto the ice Thursday at their annual teddy toss event, scoring the first goal of the game in the middle part of the third period.
And then they appeared to forget how to find the net.
Victoriaville answered that first goal of the game with three of its own — including a pair on the power play — in the final six minutes of the first and held on for dear life from there, dealing the Maineiacs a 4-1 loss in front of 2,651 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Thursday.
The Tigres came into the game reeling from a 7-1 loss to the Maineiacs in Victoriaville to open the league's second half on Tuesday, but they rebounded well in the return game of the home-and-home, getting a superb, 32-save effort from goaltender David Honzik in his first start since Christmas.
"He showed tonight why he's a high NHL prospect," Jean said. "He made the key stops for us. We traveled all day. We kind of struggled finding our legs at the start. We made some adjustments and they were not really too dangerous after that."
Lewiston's up-and-down journey continues. In December, the Maineiacs went 4-6, and have alternated wins and losses in their past six games.
"I think, if we can get our power play going, if it could win us a couple games, that would make a difference," Houle said. "The guys are working hard. We're getting chances and we're outshooting almost every team we play, so the hard work is there. As long as the hard work is there, I'm a happy coach."
Guillaume Goulet notched a pair of power-play goals to lead the Tigres, and Philip-Michael Devos potted his 28th of the season to go with a pair of assists, upping his league-leading point total to 72.
The Maineiacs looked as though they'd roll like they did Tuesday early in the contest. The home team dominated the time of possession and the time in the offensive zone.
And, Lewiston sent stuffed animals — enough to over-fill the bed of a pickup truck and the back seat of the extended cab — raining onto the ice 11:34 into the contest. That's when Jess Tanguy swiped the puck from a Victoriaville defenseman to Honzik's right, deked to his backhand and roofed the puck over the goalie's outstretched pad.
"I thought we played awesome in the first; we were all over them," Houkle said. "We were moving the puck well, and then we took a couple of bad penalties."
The Tigres benefited from that string of penalties to Lewiston players in the waning minutes of the first. Goulet netted his first of the game at 14:14 on a 5-on-3, and less than three minutes later, with the power-play unit still out after the conclusion of a 5-on-4, Devos put the Tigres on top with a top shelf wrister.
"We had a couple of times on the power plays where we didn't clear the puck, and we beat ourselves," Houle said.
Victoriaville stunned the Maineiacs with eight seconds to play in the opening frame when it again capitalized on a man advantage, and again it was Goulet cashing in, this time on a screened wrister from the left circle on which Champion had no chance.
Lewiston squandered three full power plays in the second period, including one 4-on-3 that turned into a 5-on-4 late in the frame, and the Tigres carried more of the overall play in the frame.
"We tried to play come-back, we had some good chances to score and (Honzik) made some big saves," Houle said. "He was really good, especially in the third, we had some good chances to score."
But only a couple. The Tigres' defenders did a great job of blocking shots all night long, stymiing one of the Maineiacs' most dangerous weapons.
"I thought the shots from the point were hard to get through," Houle said. "We still got some through, but when we did, the goalie played well. That's hockey."
Former Maineiac Pierre-Luc Pelletier put the finishing touches on the Tigres' win with an empty-netter, his fourth goal of the season.
The Maineiacs play their next four at home, including three next week, beginning Tuesday against Drummondville.