Rocket staves off elimination with 5-1 win to force Game 7 in Springfield


Danick Martel scores two goals and goaltender Cayden Primeau makes 30 saves as Laval is one win away from reaching the Calder Cup final.

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Danick Martel had a three-point night with a pair of goals and an assist and goaltender Cayden Primeau made 30 saves as the Laval Rocket staved off elimination in the Calder Cup Eastern Conference final with a 5-1 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds Monday at MassMutual Center.

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The victory tied the best-of-seven series at three games apiece and set up a winner-take-all Game 7 Wednesday night in Springfield.

Primeau, who has been outstanding throughout the post-season, kept the Thunderbirds off the board until former Canadien Matthew Peca scored at 15:05 of the third period.

The Rocket grabbed a 1-0 lead just before the five-minute mark of the second period. Martel was in front of the net when he picked off a pass from Tommy Cross and beat Joel Hofer with a quick wrist shot. The goal came seconds after Primeau stopped former Canadiens farmhand Will Bitten on a breakaway.

Primeau came up with another key save earlier in the second period. Tanner Kaspick went in alone after he picked off a clearing attempt by Corey Schueneman whose numerous gaffes throughout the playoffs aren’t helping his chances to move up next season.

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Primeau stopped Sam Anas on the doorstep five minutes into the final period. Anas came into the final series as the Thunderbirds’ leading scorer with 13 points in six games, but he has failed to earn a point against the Rocket.

Martel picked up an assist when he sprung veteran Gabriel Bourque loose on a partial breakaway and Bourque beat Hofer to give Laval a 2-0 lead at 1:45 of the third period.

Martel provided some insurance when he scored his ninth goal of the playoffs at 8:51.

Brandon Gignac scored an empty-net at 17:14, while Lucas Condotta capped the scoring with a power-play goal in the final minute.

Hofer, who went into the game with a 6-1 record, a 1.80 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage, gave up four goals on 31 shots. That’s the most goals the 21-year-old has allowed in the playoffs.

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The Rocket has been playing with fire throughout this series by taking too many penalties, but the Laval penalty-killers have been there to extinguish the flames. The Rocket managed to kill four penalties, including a double minor to Devante Smith-Pelly and the Thunderbirds, who scored on 38 per cent of their opportunities in the first two rounds of the playoffs, are 0-for-29 in this series. Laval has killed 33 consecutive penalties going back to the North Division final against Rochester.

Neither team was able to score in the first period. Springfield had a 9-5 edge in shots and Rocket had difficulty finding a rhythm because it spent six minutes killing penalties.

Houle reverted to his favored alignment of seven defensemen and 11 forwards with the addition of Gianni Fairbrother to the blue line. Houle said Fairbrother, who retuned to the roster for this series after missing more than four months with an upper-body injury, plays a physical style that comes in handy when matched against Springfield’s heavyweight duo of Dakota Joshua and Mackenzie MacEachern.

Gignac, who has been in and out of the lineup with minor ailments, also returned, while Kevin Roy and Jean-Christophe Beaudin were healthy scratches.

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