LEWISTON — At this point in the season, every gamble is worth it.
Trailing by two goals with 2:23 to play and with two minutes of 5-on-3 power play time staring them in the face, the Lewiston Maineiacs called timeout, pulled goaltender Adrien Lemay and, in essence, created a 6-on-3 advantage in the Montreal zone.
The Junior still added to their side of the scoreboard. Twice.
Jeremy Gouchie scored three goals and Nicolas Chouinard, who had five goals in his last trip to Lewiston, added a goal and two assists as Montreal skated away with a 7-3 victory over the Maineiacs in front of 1,801 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Sunday.
“A lot of coaches don’t do things like that, but we weren’t generating all that much offense,” Maineiacs’ coach J.F. Houle said. “Six-on-three, you shouldn’t lose any battles when you outnumber them 2-to-1 on the ice. More often than not it works in your favor, but our power play didn’t click tonight.”
A quick peek at Montreal’s penalty kill percentage tells the story. The Junior have the fourth-best kill in the league at 82.7 percent, and they were spot on again Sunday.
“We played well defensively against them,” Montreal coach Pascal Vincent said. “They have a fast team, they’re hard to play against. Guys were anxious (at the end), got a too many men penalty. I’d rather it happens now than in the playoffs.”
Looking at the postseason, Lewiston missed a chance Sunday to clinch its spot in the playoffs. Baie-Comeau remains four points back for the league’s final spot after the Drakkar also lost Sunday, 3-1 to Rimouski.
“We really can’t be looking at that,” Houle said. “When I got here at Christmas, I said it then that we have to look at each game individually, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
Sunday, Lewiston once again held an early two-goal lead, this time on the back of goals from Pierre-Olivier Morin and Matthew Bissonette. In fact, things appeared to be entirely headed in the Maineiacs’ direction. Both goals were on the soft side, and Montreal pulled keeper Jean-Francois Berube after three soft goals in the team’s previous trip to Lewiston.
“I thought he played well, especially in the third period,” Vincent said of Berube.
At the end of the first,the Junior pulled within one when Gouchie finished a 2-on-1 rush after a bad pinch by a Lewiston defender at the offensive blue line. Montreal tied the game on a Chris Thorne goal after a pair of Lewiston defenders miscommunicated in front of the cage.
“We had a couple of mistakes, and they capitalized on them,” Houle said. “Our defensemen, they got a little bit too aggressive.”
Chouinard scored from the flat of his back on a rebound in front of Lemay to give the Junior a 3-2 lead at 7:26. Then, things got chippy. Morin knocked Trevor Parkes into the Lewiston bench on a hard hit along the boards. Bissonette and Montreal’s Louis-Marc Aubry fought after Aubry ran into Lemay, and Jess Tanguy and Dillon Donnelly also got tossed for roughing.
Chouinard then took an elbowing penalty and officials whistled David Stich for high-sticking to put Lewiston on a 5-on-3.
“They really came out hard, hitting hard in the second period,” Vincent said. “We got a little bit undisciplined, but that’s part of being a young team. Part of paying the price is being able to take the hits and not retaliate.”
Lewiston briefly tied the game at 4:21 of the third period on Michael Chaput’s 28th goal of the season. Stich netted the Junior’s lone power-play tally at 8:47 to put his team on top for good, and Gouchie potted his second of the game at 14:20 to give Montreal its two-goal cushion.
Lewiston forward Etienne Brodeur survived a scary incident that led to Lewiston’s five-minute power play to close the game. Brodeur was charging hard when Stich met him about five feet from the end wall. The contact to Brodeur’s back side sent him careening into the boards, and he flopped to the ice, where he remained for nearly five minutes.
Stich was given a five-minute match penalty. Brodeur eventually skated off under his own power, holding his lower back. Word from Houle after the game was that Brodeur “will be O.K.”
On the power play, Lewiston yanked Lemay — twice — and both times, Montreal netted a goal into the empty net to run the score to 7-3.