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Brandon Gignac’s late goal gives Laval a split coming home

A huge road win evens the series at 1-1.

Syracuse Crunch v Laval Rocket Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Brandon Gignac took two cracks at it, but he was able to chip the puck past Max Lagacé and give the Laval Rocket a 3-2 win in Game 2 of their North Division semi final against the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night.

Gignac’s goal with 1:47 remaining proved to be the difference, and Cayden Primeau made 37 saves in the win. It means that Laval has wrestled home-ice advantage away from the Crunch in a huge win in the best-of-five series.

The 24-year-old is in his fifth professional season, but Saturday’s goal was his first pro playoff goal in only his second pro playoff game.

The goal came just under six minutes after Daniel Walcott tied the game for Syracuse with 7:20 remaining in the third period. Gabriel Fortier had the initial chance and drove in on Primeau. The Rocket goaltender made the save, but Walcott swept the rebound past him.

That goal gave the Crunch momentum, and they had several chances to take the lead but Primeau stood tall. They pulled the goaltender, but were unable to generate much in terms of threatening chances and the Rocket held on. Primeau made 14 saves in the final 20 minutes, and the Rocket were outshot 15-8.

Making his first professional playoff start, Primeau was solid in the early going. The Rocket were sloppy in the defensive zone, and turnovers provided Syracuse with ample opportunity to test the young goaltender.

After a lost faceoff, Simon Ryfors tipped a Ryan Jones shot past Primeau and the Crunch took a 1-0 lead just over 5:30 into the game.

Laval tied the game on the power play with 2:27 left. Jesse Ylönen found his spot at the top of the left circle and wired a shot past Lagacé. The Crunch goaltender played in both games, despite the back-to-back. He made 25 saves.

Early in the second, Syracuse started to put more pressure on Laval. They had the first six shots of the period, helped by a Sami Niku tripping penalty less than two minutes in.

Laval finally got momentum back. Jean-Sébastien Dea had a great chance on a partial breakaway but the puck went over the net and may have been touched by Lagacé.

The Rocket were able to take their first lead of the game with 13:33 remaining in the second when Remi Elie’s backhand pass went right to Alex Belzile in the slot, who made no mistake for his third goal of the series.

Shortly after the goal, the Rocket had a glorious chance to extend their lead. After a scramble in front, Danick Martel had the puck at the side of the net and Lagacé was out of position. He just wasn’t able to get the shot away in time, and the puck was deflected wide.

Jesse Ylönen had another chance to extend the lead off of a pass from Gignac who drew the defence to him, but Lagacé once again made the save. The goaltending duel continued as Primeau made three big saves on his own on Darren Raddysh, Anthony Richard, and Cole Koepke in the final few minutes.

After Friday’s Game 1 loss, the Rocket were confident, and didn’t seem like a team that had just lost. They had a goal of sending the series back to Laval tied 1-1, and that’s what they did on Saturday. A loss would have meant they would be facing elimination in Thursday’s Game 3.

After Syracuse’s power play scored two big goals on Friday, the Rocket penalty kill went 5/5 on Saturday, and was a huge factor in the win.

Laval made three lineup changes after Game 1. Primeau started in place of Kevin Poulin. Mattias Norlinder and Devante Smith-Pelly entered the lineup, and Lucas Condotta and Jean-Christophe Beaudin exited. The Rocket went with seven defencemen in the game.

Games 3 and 4 are now guaranteed at Place Bell, in the first home playoff games the team will play at the arena. Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday at 7:00 p.m., and Game 4 will be Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Should another split occur, they will go back to Syracuse for a winner-take-all Game 5.