LEWISTON – Watching his teammates reap the benefits of the recent line changes on the score sheet was tough on forward Chris Tutalo.

He’d been coming close, but getting little return, having tallied just nine points since Feb. 1.

When Tutalo got a chance to play hero Friday night, he made sure not to miss.

Simon Courcelles dug the puck to Stefano Giliati, who out of the corner of his eye saw Tutalo streaking through the slot. Giliati fed him with a high-risk pass and Tutalo one-timed it past St. John’s netminder Ilia Ejov with just 48 seconds to play in regulation to lift the Maineiacs to a 7-5 win over the Fog Devils in front of 3,607 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

“They’d scored the tying goal on our line,” Tutalo said. “We didn’t want to go to OT. Courcelles and Giliati were working the puck down low, I was watching and waiting. I screamed (Giliati’s) name and he got it to me, and Ejov was already down on the ice, so I snuck it in right up over his shoulder.”

David Perron capped the win 14 seconds later with an empty-net goal to secure the win. It was the Maineiacs’ first two-goal lead of the night in the back-and-forth contest that left fans clinging to the edge of their seats.

“It’s tough to play in a game like that,” Tutalo said. “They were in our face all night. They battled hard.”

The Maineiacs’ sixth consecutive win gives Lewiston 98 points, three shy of the total it needs to officially clinch first place in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“That was a big two points for us, knowing we have three on the road next week,” Maineiacs’ assistant coach Jeff Guay said. “We found a way.”

Before the game started, Guay warned the team that St. John’s would play them tough.

“I told them that we had just had a tough weekend on the road, and a big win over Moncton,” Guay said. “I told them that (St. John’s) was going to be a hard-working, physical team.”

The Fog Devils lived up to their billing to the delight of their coach, Real Paiement.

“We played well at times,” Paiement said. “We forced (Maineiacs’ goalie Peter Delmas) into some bad decisions, and we took advantage of those.”

But Paiement’s team ultimately fell victim to some of those same mental mistakes that plagued Lewiston.

“We lost because we made bad decisions at bad times,” Paiement said.

St. John’s threw a scare into Lewiston early, scoring just 52 seconds into the game after David Taylor missed a chance for Lewiston at the other end.

The Maineiacs tied it up, though, at 4:17, and went ahead at 14:43 of the first when Marc-Andre Crete finished a 2-on-1 with Chad Denny.

Denny, with eight points in two games this week, led the team with two goals and two assists Friday.

“It’s been nice,” Denny said of his recent scoring binge. “Things are starting to go in for me. (Maineiacs’ assistant coach) Ed (Harding) has been working with me, talking about moving my feet more, moving with the puck.”

The teams see-sawed the rest of the night. Every time the Maineiacs went ahead, the Fog Devils found a way to tie things up.

In the second, Denny scored on a slap shot from the center point, only to watch Matt Fillier pot his 12th for St. John’s. In the third, Stefano Giliati saw his goal equaled by Nicolas Bachand, and Denny again put Lewiston ahead by one with 6:21 to play, but watched as Nick Layton knotted the game at 5-5 at 16:56 of the final frame.

“After we scored, we almost knew we had it,” Giliati said of Tutalo’s goal. “After that, we went to the bench and watched Chad and Perron go in 2-on-1. It was a big relief for us.”


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