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Neal Scores in Overtime to Lift T-Birds to Game 5 Win

Neal Scores in Overtime to Lift T-Birds to Game 5 Win

LAVAL, QC – It was a nail-biter to the finish in Game 5 between the Laval Rocket and Springfield Thunderbirds in the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday as the visiting T-Birds rallied from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 3-2 win in overtime. James Neal scored the deciding goal late in the extra session to complete the comeback, which gives the Thunderbirds a 3-2 series lead back to Springfield for games six and seven. Cayden Primeau suffered the loss with 44 saves on 47 shots while Charlie Lindgren made 25 saves on 27 total shots to earn the win.

The Rocket stayed hot in a few key areas in this game, with the most noteworthy being the continued strong play of Raphael Harvey-Pinard. He chipped in both of Laval’s goals for his fourth and fifth of the postseason and brings him to five goals in his last four games and gave Laval a 2-0 lead as he banked the second tally off of a Springfield defender. Laval seemed to have a grip on the game at times thanks to their strong penalty kill, which has blanked a previously strong Springfield power play throughout this series, and came up with seven successful kills on this night while tallying once in five opportunities themselves to establish a commanding lead.

However, Springfield has been the kings of the comeback in this playoff year by overcoming numerous improbable deficits over the course of winning nine games in the Calder Cup Playoffs, and the team continued that clutch factor in this game. Neal would get on the score sheet by finding Nathan Todd at the top of the right faceoff circle, and he’d fire one over the shoulder of Primeau to cut the lead in half with his third of the playoffs.

In the third, it would take a break long in the making for Springfield to even the score at two and send the game beyond regulation. With their backs against the wall and having dented the posts in Laval heavily over the three games played north of the border to seemingly no avail, the T-Birds would tally when Dakota Joshua’s shot from just outside the slot would deflect off of a defender and pinball past Primeau to knot the score at two to send the game to extra time. The goal was Joshua’s fifth of the postseason as Springfield has continued to get production throughout their lineup.

In overtime, the two teams would trade quality scoring opportunities on the rush as overtime opened up, with Springfield firing 11 shots to Laval’s six and finding the winner when Matthew Peca found Neal unchecked in the slot, and he beat Primeau for the decisive goal. Three of the five games in this series have gone beyond sixty minutes, with Springfield now taking two of those games and earning two important wins on the road. Laval misses out on cashing in another great performance by Primeau, whose 44 stops earned him third star honors in the game. Springfield has eclipsed 40 shots on goal in each of the last three games of this series, and Primeau has been a huge factor alongside strong special teams for Laval’s success in this series. Neal’s goal is his third of the postseason, and two of those have been game-winning goals as another clutch performer for the Thunderbirds.

The series shifts back to Springfield for Game six and Game Seven, if necessary, to determine the Eastern Conference representative in the Calder Cup Finals. Springfield has played exceptionally at home in these playoffs, but its lone loss at MassMutual Center came at the hands of Laval in Game 2, a blemish on an otherwise spotless record. The Rocket have faced elimination scenarios before, downing the Syracuse Crunch in overtime in Game 5 in the second round, an experience which they’ll likely try to draw from when the puck drops in this series.

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