Having your star goalie pulled isnít usually part of the recipe for success in the post-season.
The Manitoba Moose saw it happen on Saturday afternoon, so it was little surprise they fell 6-4 to the Lake Erie Monsters before a crowd of 7,908 at Clevelandís Quicken Loans Arena.
The Monsters grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-7 North Division semifinal. Game 2 is Sunday at 2 p.m. before the series shifts to Winnipeg.
ďI didnít think we defended great,Ē Moose head coach Claude Noel told Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer. ďOur defencemen moved the puck slowly, we didnít check well enough, we didnít get enough from enough people and our goalie was below average. Those things result in a 6-4 loss.Ē
While Noel wasnít laying the blame solely at the feet of goalie Eddie Lack, the Swedish rookie had a North American playoff debut heíd like to forget, allowing five goals on 24 shots before he got the hook.
Noel raised a few eyebrows earlier in the week when he said former Monsters goalie Tyler Weiman should be excited about the chance to see some action in the series and was true to his word. Weiman played the final 5:35 of the contest and turned aside both shots that came his way.
Noel said earlier in the week the playoffs are all about winning and he wonít be afraid to make changes, so it should be interesting to see who gets the call in Game 2.
Lack has been outstanding this season, but has been pulled three times in his last nine starts ó prompting speculation Noel might turn to the more experienced Weiman.
Noel said he hadnít made up his mind yet, but wouldnít likely be sharing that information with the media anyway.
Marco Rosa had two goals and two assists for the Moose, with Sergei Shirokov and Kevin Connauton (short-handed) also scoring.
Along with Fordís two goals, the Monsters got singles from Justin Mercier, Ben Walter, Ryan Stoa and Mark Olver.
Mercierís short-handed marker 1:41 into the second period tied the contest at two.
ď(Mercier) got the breakaway, but sometimes you need a save there,Ē Noel told The Plain Dealer. ďThatís the playoffs ó timely goals and timely saves.Ē
Monsters goalie Jason Bacashihua gave up two goals on three shots but had 21 saves and chipped in an assist on Olverís empty-net goal.
Monsters head coach David Quinn was encouraged by the series-opening win, but needs to see improvement.
ďI donít want to sound like a grumpy coach, because we did win, but weíre expecting to win a championship and in order to do that we need to be better,Ē Quinn told The Plain Dealer.
HOOF PRINTS: Special teams were also a factor on Saturday, as the Moose were 0-for-4 on the power play and gave up a short-handed goal while the Monsters were 1-for-5 with the man advantage. In five games, including the regular season, the Monsters are 24-for-24 against the Moose power play.
1. Manitoba F Marco Rosa ó Two goals and two assists made the veteran centre the most dangerous player on the ice.
2. Lake Erie F Matthew Ford ó Scored the goal that got the Monsters on the board, then delivered the eventual game-winner in the third.
3. Lake Erie F Justin Mercier ó Had a short-handed goal that tied the game early in the second and set up Fordís game-winner.
The Moose scored twice on their first three shots, but gave up five of the next seven goals as they fell behind 1-0 in the best-of-7 North Division semifinal before a crowd of 7,908 in attendance for the first playoff game in the four-year franchise history of the Monsters.
As expected, Moose scratches included D Ryan Parent (back) and C Joel Perrault (knee), both of whom remain day-to-day and didnít travel to Ohio. Healthy scratches were G Steve Christie (who didnít travel either), D Keith Seabrook, D Adam Polasek, F Stefan Schneider and F Kevin Clark. Winnipegger Calvin Pickard (the third goalie) and forward Eric Hunter of Oakbank were among the Monstersí scratches.
For those wondering about the morning and afternoon times in the opening two games, Quicken Loans Arena was a hub of activity on the weekend. Canadian band Rush played a concert Friday and there was an Arena Football League game on Saturday night.
Game 2 goes Sunday at 2 p.m. before the series shifts to MTS Centre for Game 3 on Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. Game 4 and Game 5 go Thursday and Friday respectively.