BRAMPTON, ONT – Reading scored first and led 2-1 early in the third period but needed a late-game power play game winner from Ryan Penny to take the fourth straight low-scoring one-goal decision between the two teams. The Beast showed considerable resilience coming back to tie twice in the contest, but Brampton could not bag a third equalizer despite a heavy push down the final stretch.
Reading struck 17:55 into the first when a strong forecheck by Matt Willows and Chris McCarthy forced a turnover on the end wall. As the puck slid free behind the Brampton net, Olivier Labelle took control and quickly stepped above the goal line at the right pipe and stuffed the backhand home for his first of the playoff season—and his fifteenth career playoff goal in his thirty-ninth post-season game as a Royal.
Brampton tied the game at one 12:44 into the second when defenseman Jordan Henry threw a snap shot from just inside the offensive blue line on the wide right side. The puck appeared to hit someone on the way in and re-direct into the upper left corner of the net—just eluding the upper body of goaltender Mark Dekanich.
The Royals took the team’s second lead at 2-1 fifty-seven seconds into the third period, when Robbie Czarnik was able to get a snap shot off from the top of the left circle. Czarnik’s shot was partially deflected and bounced a couple of times before it hit another Brampton defender and suddenly changed direction from right to left, sliding out the grasp of goaltender Zach Fucale who was moving in the other direction.
Once again, the Beast bounced back to tie—this time 3:58 later when a failed clear resulted in a steal on the right half wall by Henry, who quickly snapped a low hard shot towards the Reading net. Brandon MacLean, who was planted at the right side of the Royals’ crease, redirected the puck up and over the right pad of Dekanich for MacLean’s first of the playoff season.
Reading got what proved to the game-winner on the team’s third power play of the chance of the game, which came when Brampton’s Connor Crisp slashed the stick of Nick Luukko in half with just 6:25 remaining in regulation. A minute later, the Royals capitalized when what appeared to be a sloppy change drew the ire of the Beast bench and appeared to shake their team focus as Olivier Labelle took a pass from Florian Iberer in the neutral zone and, in turn, chipped a perfect lead-out saucer to the breaking Ryan Penny, who took the puck in stride carried deep inside the left circle and uncorked a rocket that blew by Fucale low blocker.
From that point, the Beast went into attack mode; but the Royals were able to hold on for the win and ensure that the series will have to return to Reading for resolution.
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