The Halifax Mooseheads have another big hole to dig themselves out of.
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc’s power play marker on a blast from the point with 56.3 seconds left in the third period gave the Rimouski Oceanic a 5-4 win over the Mooseheads and a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-seven series. Saturday’s game was played before another capacity crowd of 10,595 fans.
Four times in Game 2 Halifax held a one-goal advantage, only to see Rimouski tie things up. That included twice in the third period as Nathan MacKinnon tallied his 12th and 13th goals of the playoffs.
Rimouski’s late-game power play came after Mooseheads forward Alexandre Grenier was called for tripping in the Oceanic zone with just over two minutes left in regulation time.
“I think we beat ourselves tonight. We had the lead more than enough tonight and we just let them back in the game each time,” said Mooseheads defenceman Trey Lewis. “We’d take the lead and then let them back in with a quick goal. We can’t be doing that.”
Tied 2-2 through 40 minutes, MacKinnon brought the sellout crowd to its feet when he scored at the 39-second mark, then again just over four minutes later. But after each goal, Rimouski quickly countered.
Jean-Francois Plante scored 75 seconds after MacKinnon’s first goal. Jakub Culek found the back of the net 32 seconds after his second.
“It’s definitely a mental test. We have to stay focused for sure,” Lewis said of the four blown leads. “We have to make sure we bounce back even when we score. We have to keep up the strong shifts with the next one.”
Solace for the tough situation Halifax now faces is how they made it to the semifinal round. After dropping the first three games of its quarterfinal series with the Quebec Remparts, the Mooseheads won the next four games, including the last two on the road.
Games 3, 4 and 5 are all being played in Rimouski, starting on Tuesday. That means if Halifax wants to bring the series back to Halifax, they’ll have to win at least twice on the road.
“We know we can come back, but at the end of the day, we don’t want to get down 3-0 again,” MacKinnon said, in reference to the importance of Tuesday’s game. “It’s just not worth the stress, even if we did come back, it’s not what we want to do. We want three up there and that’s what we’re going there to get.”
Konrad Abeltschauser and Andrew Ryan had the other goals for Halifax. Peter Trainor and Jean-Philippe Mathieu rounded out the scoring for the Oceanic, which outshot Halifax 39-27.
MacKinnon’s second goal of the game set a new franchise record for goals in one playoffs by a Mooseheads player, breaking the mark previously by held by defenceman Jamie Brown.
“It’s definitely cool to have the record, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. We lost the game,” MacKinnon said. “It’s definitely exciting, but I came here to win tonight, not to get a record.”