LEWISTON – The race for first place in the Eastern Division got a whole lot tighter Sunday afternoon.

The Lewiston Maineiacs are in danger of falling out of the top spot for the first time since November.

Cape Breton goalie Ondrej Pavelec took over as his team started to falter in the third period, making 16 saves on 17 shots to lead the Screaming Eagles to a 4-1 victory over the Maineiacs in front of 2,778 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Sunday.

“Today was a tough task against a tough team on the road,” Cape Breton coach Pascal Vincent said. “I think the energy level, we started to fade in the third, but this finishes our best road trip of the year.”

After playing eight periods of hockey in three days, Vincent understood when his players started to slow down.

“That’s where Pavelec comes up big,” Vincent said. “That’s where he has to help his team out.”

Pavelec has a good history against the Maineiacs, who have now dropped three straight to the Eagles.

“I don’t know why I play good against them,” Pavelec said. “We played a good game, but when we get up 3-0 or 4-1, we slow down a bit.”

Pavelec didn’t mind the extra shots on goal. He saw 17 in the final period.

His biggest stop came on a David Taylor penalty shot with 15:52 to play. Taylor crept in, trying to get Pavelec to make the first move. He didn’t, and swatted Taylor’s snap shot attempt away with his catching glove to keep the score at a manageable 3-1.

A bigger turning point in the game, though, may have been late in the second. Cape Breton led 2-0, and Lewiston goalie Peter Delmas made a rare mistake.

Delmas dribbled the puck at the left side of the net as Sheppard bore down on him. Sebastien Piche was there, too, but Sheppard, fresh from the penalty box, out-worked him and fed Jean-Christophe Gauthier in front for an easy one-timer.

“You can’t give a goal like that to a very good hockey team and expect to win the game,” Maineiacs coach Clem Jodoin said. “It’s hard, but he’s a rookie, and he’ll bounce back from that. He has to.”

Delmas was playing in his ninth straight game in place of injured Jonathan Bernier.

The loss drops Lewiston to 37-13-2-4, giving the Maineiacs 80 points. Cape Breton now has 78 points and one more win than the Maineiacs, but also has played one more game.

After all of their near misses on quality scoring chances – and even a disallowed goal after they knocked the net off its moorings – the Screaming Eagles did capitalize on perhaps the easiest chance they’ll get the rest of the season.

Delmas made the original save at the left post, and went down to cover the rebound. But when the puck squirted away, Delmas lunged and missed. The puck pinballed back to the point. There, Beau Prokopetz blasted a slap shot into the open net past two Lewiston defenders as Delmas lay prone on the ice to put the Eagles ahead 1-0 at 18:33 of the opening frame.

Cape Breton thought it had scored a goal five minutes earlier, but a video replay showed that the net had popped off its pegs before the puck crossed the line.

The Eagles upped the lead in the second, thanks to a power play goal by Dean Ouellet. On a perfect tic-tac-toe setup, Ouellet had time to miss his first attempt at the left side of the net – he hit the post – gather his rebound and put the puck in.

Lewiston returns to the ice Thursday at the Colisee against the Halifax Mooseheads.

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