For two periods tonight, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles were quite outclassed by the Val d'or Foreurs.
That didn't end up mattering though, as Cape Breton found a way to score twice in the third period to tie the game, regain the momentum and carry the play for the first extended period of time in the contest, and force OT.
That set the stage for, believe it or not, the first Eagle playoff overtime win since Andre Martineau scored to end Game 2 of the 2002 second round series vs Halifax. The Eagles had lost EIGHT playoff OT games in a row in the meantime.
Early in the extra frame, Paul McIlveen scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history, when his snapper from about the top of the circle found the top shelf on the glove side of Val d'or goaltender Raffael D'Orso. This set off pandemonium on the Eagles' bench, and in many homes throughout Cape Breton where fans were gathered together to watch this huge game.
Ondrej Pavelec was the game's first star, and for extremely good reason. The Eagles were dominated in the first two periods, and Pavelec was by far the biggest reason that Cape Breton was even still in the game. He made several game-saving stops throughout the night, showing the Abitibi region of Quebec why he is the #1 goaltender in this league. Without this guy tonight, we fall behind about 4-0 after two periods, in my books.
In the playoffs, sometimes you have to find a way to win a game you don't really have any business winning. The Eagles somehow managed to do that tonight. It's good to know that the team played their worst game of the playoffs to date, and still managed to win. That said, much better games are needed from the team throughout the rest of the series, as I honestly doubt Val d'or lets us off the hook like that again.
The Foreurs showed us for much of tonight's contest that they are a FAR cry from the teams we faced in the first two rounds. They are extremely skilled and speedy, and boast some borderline ridiculous high-end talent in Letang and Marchand. Cape Breton seemed overwhelmed by Val d'or's speed and skill in the first two periods tonight, and will have to find a way to play entire games the way they played the third and OT if they are to have success in this series.
Expect Val d'or to come out with fire in their eyes tomorrow night in Game 2 to redeem themselves from the one that got away, but you would also think that Cape Breton would come out with a better all-around game as well.
In any event, one of the most thrilling wins in years tonight, and the standard playoff goal of a split on the road is already complete.
Game 2 goes tomorrow night at 8:00 PM AST, also televised/webcasted Eastlink.