Amerks in the hole 2-0 after a second straight loss at Laval

For the first time in the playoffs, the Amerks are in big trouble.

Mark Jankowski scored in the dying minutes of regulation time to spoil Cayden Primeau’s shutout attempt, but the Rochester Americans weren’t able to erase a three-goal deficit or generate much offense then that the Laval Rocket won Game 2 of the North Division Final by 3-1 on Monday at Place Bell.

The Rocket now lead the series in a best of five series 2-0 after winning the first two games in Laval as the series moves to Rochester for a must-win third game.

The Amerks had their backs against the wall and pulled off a win-win fifth game against the Utica Comets in the final round. This time, they will have to succeed three times in a row.

“We just really have to not play like them. We have to play like us,” defender Brandon Davidson said. “I think there are minor details all over the ice that need to be cleaned up. Nothing huge. I think we are there. We are one second behind a puck or one second ahead of it. We’re just not in an ideal position right now.

Jankowski redirected his fifth goal of the playoffs from Arttu Ruotsalainen and Peyton Krebs late in the third period for Rochester’s lone scorer. Jankowski has three goals in his last four games and four of his last six while Ruotsalainen, who leads the AHL with 12 points (8+4), has at least one point in eight of his nine games to start the playoffs . Krebs, meanwhile, leads all AHL skaters with 10 assists.

Goaltender Aaron Dell started his ninth straight fight and, despite making 29 saves, suffered the loss. In six of his nine appearances in the 2022 Playoffs, Dell has stopped at least 20 shots.

Laval forward Alex Belzile had two assists while Brandon Gignac, Louie Belpedio and Lucas Condotta all scored for the Rocket, who have now won three straight since their series-clinching victory at Syracuse last week.

Primeau, who allowed two or fewer goals in five of his first six playoff appearances, delivered another outstanding performance between the posts, stopping 31 of 32 shots he faced for a second consecutive game.

“We created a lot of things in the second and third. We haven’t finished enough,” said head coach Seth Appert. “We need to increase traffic on Primeau because it’s in a rhythm right now.”

“Like our goal that we got tonight, we had a presence in net. I think that’s how you get to a keeper in a groove there,” Jankowski said. “You make it uncomfortable for him. You stand above the fold. Make sure he can’t get out. Make sure he can’t see the pucks and pepper him as much as you can and get a second and third shot.

With the puck deep inside the Amerks’ zone just over five minutes into the game, Laval rolled it down the ice to Dell’s right corner. Gignac picked up the puck and spun behind the net. As he reached the corner he fired it through the mouth of the goal before he spun into the right spot for Tory Dello. Dell made the first save on the defender’s attempt, but Gignac buried the rebound to give Laval the 1-0 lead they would take at intermission.

Laval doubled its lead at 4:55 of the start of the second period. The Rocket intercepted a pass from Amerk inside his zone before rushing to the offensive end of the ice on a 4-on-2 run. As Belzile carried the puck across the blue line, he left it to Cédric Paquette, who in turn dropped it at Belpedio as he joined the race. The Laval defender took two more strides before whistling a shot past Dell for his first of the series and second of the playoffs.

As Laval took a 2-0 lead in the final period, it was Primeau who continued to silence the Amerks by stopping all 14 shots he faced in the second period. The goalkeeper canceled a pair of Grade A chances on Ruotsalainen and Lukas Rousek in the last minute in addition to Jankowski moments before.

In the third period, the Amerks kept pressing to solve Primeau but the Rocket forced a turnover inside the Rochester area near the halfway mark. Peter Abbandonato collected the puck in the corner before spotting Condotta alone between the points.

Condotta’s goal was his first of the playoffs and was the final scorer for Laval, but Rochester refused to walk away without spoiling Primeau’s attempt for a shutout.

As the contest drew to a close, Dell was pulled for an extra skater despite the Amerks facing a three-goal deficit.

Rochester used the extra skater to their advantage as Jankowski redirected Ruotsalainen’s shot from the right faceoff circle with just over two minutes remaining in regulation time.

Krebs, who got the secondary pass on Jankowski’s fifth postseason goal, dispatched the AHL’s leading scorer in the playoffs with a pass in the area for Ruotsalainen to head for the front of the net.

The Amerks generated a few more chances in the final 2:34, but just like most of the game, they couldn’t beat Primeau as he and the Rocket held on for a 3-1 victory and a lead 2-0 in the series.

Amerk is looking to avoid elimination as the best-of-five series returns to Rochester for Game 3 on Wednesday, May 25 at Blue Cross Arena. The puck drop is scheduled for a start at 7:05 p.m.