(Laval, Quebec) … The playoff-bound Rochester Americans (34-20-11-6) opened the final month of the 2017-18 regular season the same way they concluded the last two games of March; with a victory. With a 3-2 win Wednesday night at Place Bell against the Laval Rocket (24-38-7-2), the Amerks finished the eight-game season-series with a 6-2-0-0 record.
The win also gives Rochester a three-point cushion of the Utica Comets in the AHL’s North Division standings with 11 days left of the regular season.
Colin Blackwell scored a pair of goals, including the game-winning tally for the third time in the last four games, while Danny O’Regan chipped in a two assists for Rochester. First-year forward Sean Malone scored his 11th of the season to round out the scoring while rookie goaltender Jonas Johansson picked up his third straight victory in as many games to improve his record to 3-2-0 on the campaign.
Three-time AHL All-Star and last year’s AHL’s Eddie Shore Award winner Matt Taormina notched his career-best 46 and 47th assists of the season for the Rocket, who have just two wins in the last 15 contests. Adam Cracknell scored his 28th goal of the slate while forward Antoine Waked tallied his seventh. Netminder Charlie Lindgren, who entered the game with an 8-0-2 record in his last 10 appearances against the Amerks dating back to last season as member of the St. John’s IceCaps, took the loss.
As it appeared the Amerks were going to be trailing the Rocket 2-1 going into the second intermission, Malone tied the game at 2-2 with 21 seconds showing on the clock.
Gathering the puck to the left of the Amerks net, defenseman Nathan Paetsch sent an outlet pass to Seth Griffith standing near the far blueline. Upon entering the Rocket zone, the former AHL All-Star fired a shot-pass to the stick of Malone near Lindgren and the Buffalo native redirected the puck into the net.
It was the second straight game Malone and Paetsch have teamed up for a goal. As for Paetsch, he has four assists over his last eight games while Griffith shows seven points (4+3) over his last eight outings.
As the teams emerged from the break tied at 2-2, Blackwell gave Rochester its first and only lead of the night as he plotted his second of the contest and 14th of the season just 36 seconds into the third period.
With the Amerks controlling the opening face-off of the final frame, defenseman Taylor Fedun fired a shot from the right point. The puck, however, glanced off O’Regan’s stick before coming to a rest in front of Lindgren’s left arm as he was on his stomach. Blackwell scooped up the rebound and flipped it past the defenseless netminder to give the Amerks a 3-2 lead.
The marker gives Blackwell 40 points on the season in 56 games, after having just 11 points (4+7) in 57 games last season with San Jose Barracuda. Over his last 10 games, the second-year forward has 17 points (8+9) and six multi-point efforts dating back to Mar. 11. Currently, Blackwell is riding a career-long five-game point streak (7+4).
Over the final 19-plus minutes of regulation, the Amerks carried much of the play as they outshot the Rocket 11-6, but Lindgren kept the home team within a goal. Then, in an effort to tie the game, Laval pulled its netminder for the extra attacker for the final 1:13, but Johansson stood tall and held on for his third straight win.
The 3-2 victory gives Rochester a five-game point streak (4-0-1-0), and for Johansson, it establishes a personal career-long three-game winning streak.
The Amerks return home to The Blue Cross Arena to kick-off their final four-game homestand, beginning on Friday, Apr. 6 against the Belleville Senators before hosting the league-leading Toronto Marlies on Saturday night. Both games will start at 7:05 p.m. and can be heard live on The Sports Leader 95.7 FM/950 AM ESPN Rochester.
RCH: Blackwell (13, 14), Malone (11)
LAV: Cracknell (28), Waked (7)
RCH: Johansson – 25/27 (W)
LAV: Lindgren – 30/33 (L)
RCH: PP (0/4) | PK (3/4)
LAV: PP (1/4) | PK (4/4)