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Beech dominates, but isn't enough for Otters


Peter Tsimikalis and Steve Mason watch the puck sail wide during the shootout.


Give the Otters credit, they might be the worst rendition of the team in franchise history, a long and wandering franchise history and they might be firmly locked in the basement of arguably the far superior conference in the league, however they seem to be running down the stretch playing with pride at stake.  There's also the little matter of the score to settle with the Rangers who've dominated the season-series 5-1 to this point.  The Otters played with pride though, and one of the keys to having a chance against the Rangers would be getting the first goal of the game.  Thte Otters didn't just have a problem with getting the first goal to break the ice.  In each of their previous 6 games against the Rangers, they found themselves down 3-0 prior to even trying to mount any type of comeback.  The comeback did work in Erie, where the Otters scored 5 third period goals to erase a 3-0 Rangers lead earlier in the season.  Those where different times, the goaltending matchup involved Mark Packwood for the Kitchener Rangers and Justin Garay for the Otters.

In goal for the Rangers?  Fresh off of a 5-game suspension Charles Lavigne.  Lavigne who's last start was against the very same Otters only two weeks earlier at the Aud had his night end a few minutes early when he accidentally swatted the puck over the glass in frustration after losing his shutout late in the third period of the game.  For the incident Lavigne was assessed what has become an automatic gross misconduct, unfortuantely a 5-game suspension is also automatic with such an infraction.  This time the Otters and their red-hot netminder: Kevin Beech were prepared the change the tables on the Rangers.  Anthony Peluso scored on a two-on-one with Justin Hodgman, Peluso found some space after out-waiting the Rangers netminder.  At the other end of the ice the Otters killed three consecutive Rangers' powerplays that started the game, the let-down after the shootout loss against the Knights was obvious.
 



Scott Aarssen battles with Steve Mason at the top of the crease during the first period.

During the last one of those three consecutive Rangers' powerplays disaster struck as Lavigne was fighting the puck and the Otters were able to score shorthended in one of those horrible instances where the Rangers simply weren't able to settle the puck.  Fortuantely for the Rangers fate stepped in a gave them a little bit of a helping hand.  After the puck was steered around Lavigne and over the line the official in charge ruled that he had blew the whistle to kill he play moments earlier nulifying the goal.  It was at that point that Lavigne's fortunes also changed.  Lavigne, who appeared to be fighting the puck came up with several key stops from that point onward including one very strong kick stop when he came out far to cut down the angle on a promising Otters' chance.  Mike Duco brought the Rangers back to even terms late in the first period taking a Matt Halischuk rebound while working with a line that was assembled earlier the season centred by Justin Azevedo.

The second period was more of the same, Beech, Beech and more Beech.  The Rangers didn't pulverize the Otters' net with 23 shots, as they did during the first period.  But, the second period was a strong one for the Rangers despite allowing 12 shots against.  Matt Halischuk, again had the hot hand.  Instead of simply shooting from the perimeter, Halischuk pulled the puck down and went directly to the net, beating Beech on the glove side by going in fearlessly deep before turning wide.  Late in the third the Otters pulled their netminder.  Brian Soso nearly filled the empty net.  Steve Downie did not play, he had a stiff neck after a violent center ice collision with Sergei Kostitsyn on Tuesday night.