Now that, Lewiston, is playoff hockey.

We may have forgotten what it looked like, and especially what it felt like, in the last six weeks. The Maineiacs had outscored their opponents 35-15 inside the friendly blue-and-orange confines of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, and the fans were getting spoiled like the Celtics fans in the old Garden when Bill Walton and the Big Three were steamrolling through the 1986 NBA playoffs.

Game 2 of the President’s Cup final had everything playoff hockey should, and then some. Conga lines to the penalty box. Bone-jarring hits. Chippy cheap shots after the whistle. Spectacularly clutch goaltending. And really, how many hockey games could you find a girl in the stands wearing a prom dress?

The road to the President’s Cup final had its moments, but let’s face it folks, the Maineiacs could pretty much name their score through the first three rounds. And anyone who wanted to pop the Maineiacs in the mouth to at least let them know they were in the the rough-and-tumble playoffs, had to catch them first, but nobody from Shawinigan, Halifax or Rouyn-Noranda could catch anyone in a blue-and-white sweater when it mattered.

Val-d’Or popped Lewiston in the mouth early and often Saturday night, and nearly lived to tell about it.

If you stepped out for a popcorn in the first 10 minutes of the first period or the first 90 seconds of the second, chances are you didn’t just miss something, the guy sitting next to you needed five minutes to catch you up on everything you missed.

For the first six minutes, both teams were on a penalty-a-minute pace.

“I tell you, I don’t want to criticize anybody,” offered Maineiacs coach Clem Jodoin, “but sometimes, I don’t see the same game.”

Eric Castonguay and Pierre-Luc Faubert scored the first two times the Maineiacs had the man advantage. Val-d’Or’s Brad Marchand set up Bernier beautifully to get the Foreurs on the board, threatening from the left circle, while Felix Schutz camped out just to the left of a helpless Bernier for a tap-in that made it 2-1.

But, momentum was fleeting for the visitors. By the time Chad Denny gave Lewiston its first power-play goal in just over 10 minutes, the Maineiacs looked like they might rewrite the record books.

Val-d’Or didn’t exactly bring a knife to a gun fight, though. The Foreurs have been explosive throughout the playoffs, perhaps no more so than the first 93 seconds of the second period, when two of their hottest veteran forward, Brad Marchand and Jerome Samson, tied the game. A small but vocal group of Val-d’Or rooters in Section 25 pierced the stunned silence of the partisan crowd.

“You’ve got to give them credit. They came back. They came back strong,” Jodoin said. “And you’ve got to say ‘Thank you’ to Jonathan Bernier.”

Every hero needs a foil, and Maineiacs fans had a villain upon whom to spew Lewiston’s own special brand of invective. Val-d’Or defenseman Kristopher Letang, was a pest at both blue lines, and was two excellent saves by Jonathan Bernier from giving the Foreurs the lead. He still drew blood with a stick to Stefano Giliati’s lip.

Maineiacs fans probably drew blood from their own lips to cope with the teeth-gnashing tension of nine Val-d’Or power plays.

“That’s almost 20 minutes short-handed. That’s too much. That’s too much,” Jodoin said. “It’s impossible to play a game like that in the box.”

The clock ran out on eight of those power plays, however, and that’s where the gratitude to Bernier largely belongs. The third period was his, and if the Maineiacs go on to clinch the Cup, it will probably be that performance that will be his, and his team’s signature moment, even moreso than Faubert’s game-winner with a minute left.

But there are probably other signature moments to come, likely a good amount of them awaiting the Maineiacs in the Valley of Gold.

“It’s going to be another war,” Bernier said. “It’s a small rink and they get pretty loud. We just need to continue the way we played and battle hard.”


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