The good (financial) news is that the Juniors will have another home game in Round 1. The bad news is that Rouyn-Noranda beat them 4-3 on Saturday night at the Verdun Auditorium. The win allowed the Huskies to tie the best of seven series at 1 and grab home ice advantage.
The first period flew by, chock full of hits, scoring chances and end-to-end rushes. T.J. Brennan and Sergey Ostapchuk exchanged power play goals and the teams headed into the second period knotted at one.
The wheels came off the Juniors' playoff bus early in the second. Christophe Losier netted Rouyn-Noranda's second power play goal of the night at 1:09. Fifteen seconds later, Jérôme Côté beat a shaky Jake Allen to put the Huskies up 3-1.
Montreal tied it up on goals by Guillaume Asselin, on the power play, and Samuel Grenache. With four minutes to go in the period, Grenache thought he had his second of the night, but the goal was disallowed upon video review.
With the teams tied at 3, Michael Beaudry took advantage of an unsuccessful Montreal clearing attempt to score the eventual game winner at 6:02 of the final stanza. Montreal generated a number of scoring opportunities, but were unable to beat Mikaël Audette.
I noted after game one that game two could be interesting if Rouyn-Noranda stayed out of the penalty box and got some goaltending. They cut the number of penalties in half and, more significantly, Mikaël Audette's game arrived Express Post sometime around the seven minute mark of the second period. His glove hand must have been sent separately and he was still sloppy and floppy, but he started flopping at the right time and in the right place. He outplayed the usually reliable Jake Allen.
Watching Allen allow one weak goal in a close game was surprising. Seeing three questionable goals beat him in a playoff game was astounding. It's hard to say exactly what happened. Perhaps it was the effect of having to play intense back-to-back games before really being back in game shape. Perhaps the injury he suffered in early March is not entirely rehabilitated. Or maybe it was just one of those nights. Whatever the case, the Juniors will need for him to bounce back if they are going to accomplish anything in the playoffs.
For their part, the Huskies have put themselves in the driver's seat (for now, anyway). They are leaving Montreal having done what all teams strive to do when they start a playoff series on the road: they stole one in the other team's rink and have claimed home ice advantage. That being said, the Juniors weren't blown out of the rink any measure and the chances of a player the calibre of Jake Allen having two consecutive bad games are slim. This could be an entirely different series by the time the teams return to Montreal.
Games 3 and 4 go Tuesday and Wednesday in Rouyn-Noranda. The teams are back at the Verdun Auditorium for game 5 on Friday, March 27th. The puck drops at 7:30. And the way this series has been going, you may want to pencil in game 7 on March 31st at 7pm. Tickets for Montreal home games are available at the Verdun Auditorium box office or on Admission.
-One of These Things is not Like the Others: The Montreal-Rouyn-Noranda series is the only one tied at one. Moncton, Cape Breton, Drummondville, Shawinigan, Rimouski, Quebec and Gatineau are all up 2-0 in their series.
-What would your mother say?! Samuel Grenache and Alex Émond went at it at 8:49 of the second period. Grenache issued the invitation to dance and one wonders if it wasn't just so he'd have the opportunity to doff his helmet and reveal his new lid. His Mohawk is most definitely an acquired taste.
-Almost a Gordie Howe Hat Trick: With a goal and a fight, the aforementioned Grenache was an assist short of the mythical GHHT (mythical because Mr. Hockey never actually scored one). Grenache did, however, have a blocked shot so perhaps we can start referring to a Grenache Hat Trick.
-Love the Help: The post-season has seen the arrival of a new crew of mid-period ice cleaners. The Cintron Girls have been replaced by a team of youngsters in Montreal Jerseys. Looking good, gang. (And the parents in the crowd will no doubt appreciate the fact that the kids are wearing helmets.)
-Oops: After game one, I said the Huskies' Benoit Gervais was a prototypical power forward except for the fact that he plays defense. Well, he doesn't. While he's listed a defenseman on the line up sheet and in the program, he actually plays forward on Rouyn-Noranda's second line. He mans the point on the power play. My bad.
-Speaking of Gervais, Again: It's disconcerting to see him anywhere near Montreal's Louis-Marc Aubry. Aubry looks 14, while Gervais looks 32. One of the oddities of junior hockey, I guess.
-Dog Pound: Section 3 was home to a group of enthusiastic, flag waving Huskies' fans. After Rouyn-Noranda's third goal, they started chanting Jake Allen's name derisively. Turnabout is fair play: Montreal fans had been chanting Audette's name since midway through game one.
-Expansion of a Different Kind: Montreal will definitely have to consider enlarging the penalty boxes. It's tight enough with two players, but three is definitely a crowd and one player invariably winds up having to stand.
-Wow! T.J. Brennan and Guillaume Asselin's goals were things of beauty. Brennan launched a beautiful rising shot from the point While Asselin ripped one from a bad angle. Any wonder the power play is working at 33.3%?
-How do you say "hot dog" in Russian? With Jake Allen on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Sergey Ostapchuk grabbed the puck and, rather than shoot, stickhandled towards the empty Montreal net. Dmitry Kostromintin caught up to him, cut him off and prevented the Huskies' regular season points leader from potting the insurance goal. Whether Ostapchuk was hot dogging or simply playing it safe is up for debate, but you can rest assured a few words in Russian were exchanged.
ROU – Sergey Ostapchuk (1) (Jeff Desjardins) (power play) 15:32
MTL – T.J. Brennan (1) (Nick Layton, Matt Fillier) (power play) 16:18
ROU – Christophe Losier (Gabriel Lévesque) (power play) 01:02
ROU – Jérôme Côté (Jeff Desjardins) 01:24
MTL – Guillaume Asselin (T.J. Brennan, Dmitri Kostromitin) (power play) 14:59
MTL – Samuel Grenache (Jérémy Gouchie) 15:27
ROU – Michael Beaudry (Nicolas Deslauriers, Pier-Luc Champagne) 06:02
Spectators: 3 023
1- Michael Beaudry, Rouyn-Noranda
2- Mikaël Audette, Rouyn-Noranda
3- Guillaume Asselin,Montreal
Referees: Nicolas Dutil and Jonathan Trudel
Linesman: Stéfan Capano and Shane Black