LEWISTON – Chris Tutalo slid a pass from the left half-board back to the point and glided to the front of the net. On the blue line, Chad Denny stepped sideways with the puck, and instead of his customary windup into a 100-mile-per-hour slapshot, Denny flicked his wrists and sent a low, hard shot toward the net.

Tutalo was late getting there, though.

“You have to move,” Lewiston Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin barked from outside the zone.

Jodoin drifted over and pulled Tutalo to a spot in the low slot, right in front of goaltender Jonathan Bernier.

“Here,” Jodoin said. “Faster.”

The Maineiacs’ power play units had been working this same drill for 20 minutes. For an hour before the rest of the team joined them on the ice, the Maineiacs’ special teams units skated under the watchful eye of their coach.

“We focus a lot on power play now,” forward Stefano Giliati said. “We haven’t been excellent all season on it, so in the playoffs we’re really focusing on putting the puck to the net.”

The extra practice has paid off so far.

In the playoffs, Lewiston is 7-for-25 on the power play, a 28 percent clip. To close the regular season, the Maineiacs were 8-for-32 in their last five games, a 25 percent clip, well above their season average of 19.8 percent.

“During playoffs, it all has to come together,” captain Marc-Andre Cliche said. “The defensemen are playing really well on the power play, too, and that helps a lot.”

One key member of the Maineiacs’ power play in the regular season was Stefan Chaput. He was hurt to finish the season, but his time in the stands may have helped him – and the power play.

“I got to see a couple of games from the stands,” Chaput said. “The power play is working really well right now. I want to be on the power play, but I don’t want to disturb the unit because that’s what’s helping us win right now. We need someone in front of the net all the time. I think we caught on to that.”

The umbrella-style power play the team had been running had apparently run out of gas in January and February. One player in front with perimeter passing, waiting for the perfect play.

“We turned our focus to shooting the puck instead of trying to make the perfect play,” Cliche said. “That makes a big difference.”

And the shots from the point, which are still a big key to the power play, are lower, harder and come more quickly.

“You can deflect the puck or just get a rebound on a shot,” Cliche said. “If the goalie can’t see the puck, he’ll put the rebounds everywhere.”

If the Maineiacs plan to have success in Round 2 and beyond, the team knows how important maintaining solid play on special teams will be.

“Special units always win something, so I am thinking that every team has to be sharp 5-on-5, but if we can improve on our special units, that will give us an edge,” Jodoin said.


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