The Laval Rocket had a chance to close out their series, but the Syracuse Crunch played a near-perfect game in a 3-0 win on Saturday afternoon at Place Bell.
The series will now go back to New York for a winner-take-all Game 5 on Tuesday night.
“We expected a long series, and that’s what we have,” said Rocket captain Xavier Ouellet. “They are close games in general. We’ll turn the page quickly and get ready for Tuesday.”
“There’s one game left, and it’s the most important game of the year and we’re going to go to Syracuse to win it,” said Rocket forward Rafaël Harvey-Pinard.
Maxime Lagacé made four saves, and Hugo Alnefelt made 24 saves to combine for the shutout after Lagacé was forced out of the game with an injury 10:14 into the game.
Cole Koepke opened the scoring 5:35 into the game when he took a pass from Anthony Richard.
Gabriel Dumont took a roughing penalty when he pushed Rocket forward Alex Belzile into his own goaltender. Lagacé instantly grabbed at his leg, and favoured it when leaving the ice. That meant Alnefelt would be called upon, and the 20-year-old Swede was forced into his AHL playoff debut.
On the ensuing power play, Laval would hit two posts on the same shift, but the score remained 1-0.
“When a goaltender comes in and is cold, you want to throw pucks at the net, and that’s what we did on the power play,” said Harvey-Pinard. “We played well offensively at times, and at times we didn’t. We made his life easy. We’ll need to be better around him.”
“We had chances. We didn’t play badly, just the opposite. There were positives to take away,” said Belzile. “In the playoffs, you’re going to need some garbage goals and sometimes we were trying to make the extra pass. You can’t overthink it. I’m not worried, I think we’re going to bounce back.”
The Rocket had a second power play late in the first period, but weren’t able to generate any great chances.
In the second period, Primeau continued his strong play, making two big saves early in the period from dangerous areas, including one off the stick of Daniel Walcott.
The Crunch kept pushing, and Otto Somppi hit the post behind Primeau. Shortly after, Brandon Gignac took a penalty, and it seemed to temporarily spark Laval.
Cédric Paquette had a chance, but couldn’t get the shot off, and Harvey-Pinard and Belzile had a two-on-one, but were unable to convert.
“We had a few chances shorthanded,” said Harvey-Pinard. “But we didn’t put the puck on net. We had chances to shoot, and we didn’t take the shot. We had 17 shots midway through the third period. It takes more shots than that and we need to find a way to disrupt the goaltender.”
Early in the third period, Paquette took a roughing penalty and the Crunch were able to convert to take a 2-0 lead. Remi Elie had a wide open net after Primeau was run into and moved out of his net. The goal was allowed on the ice, and there is no challenge system for goaltender interference in the AHL.
“He said it was the final decision, and there was no contact with the goaltender,” said Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle. “We’d like to be different, but they played a better game than us. They were desperate and we needed to match their energy.”
“It’s a good team on the other side, and they played a good game.”
Anthony Richard added a goal to make it 3-0, which was the eventual final score.