The first half of the task is now complete for the Halifax Mooseheads.
They're up 2-0 on the Moncton Wildcats in their second-round series but the real work is still ahead of them. Getting the next two wins will mean weathering a push from an opponent desperate to avoid elimination, with Games 3 and 4 set to be played in the other team's rink.
"That's obviously what we wanted to do - get two wins at home and then hopefully build off that on the road," said Halifax defenceman Walter Flower. "We want to keep pushing when we go to Moncton.
"Whenever we stick to our game, especially on the road, that's when things work for us. If we do that, I think it should go well."
After a strong showing in a Game 1 win, the Mooseheads kept that going into Game 2 on Saturday. They had another great start and went ahead 3-0 but then their play got a little ragged. They still managed to pull off a 3-2 victory at the Scotiabank Centre but nearly let the Wildcats off the hook.
"We didn't play well today," said Halifax head coach Eric Veilleux said. "We had big breakdowns. I thought (goalie Alexis) Gravel made some big saves. We turned pucks over a few times and that gave them two-on-ones, three-on-twos and a breakaway for (Moncton forward) Alexander Khovanov. I just thought defensively we were very average."
There were also some fireworks at the close of the game. Khovanov cross-checked Halifax forward Joel Bishop high after the final buzzer, which nearly led to a brawl. Khovanov received a major penalty and a game misconduct and it wouldn't come as a surprise to see him suspended for the next game.
"There was a lot happening obviously," Veilleux said. "I definitely saw Khovanov go after one of our players with a cross-check to the throat. Then it started.
"The league is probably going to want to review this so we'll let them be the judges of what can be done. And at the end...I sent my captain (Antoine Morand) to see if (the referees) saw one of their players doing some (hand) signs on the ice."
Veilleux didn't elaborate but it's believed Moncton defenceman Gabriel Sylvestre directed a throat slash gesture towards a Halifax player and made a motion like he would knock someone out and put them to sleep. It's also believed the incident is visible on video so there could be a league review for that as well.
Otherwise, Moncton's injury situation continued to evolve in Game 2. Defenceman Jordan Spence returned to the lineup after missing virtually the entire first round, plus Game 1 in Halifax, and it didn't look like he was playing at 100 per cent. Star forward Jakob Pelletier is also playing through an injury and veteran defenceman Jonathan Aspirot was not able to go in Game 2 after hurting himself in the opener.
"We're just playing playoff hockey right now," Flower said. "We're working for our bounces and we're capitalizing when we get them. I think if we stick to doing that, we'll be good."
The top line of Raphael Lavoie, Samuel Asselin and Antoine Morand continues to drive the Mooseheads offence. Lavoie scored the first two goals in Saturday's win to increase his QMJHL-leading total to 11 in nine games and his linemates finished with an assist each.
"Their line's clicking right now and it's really helping us," Flower said. "I hope they can keep them going."
Jocktan Chainey had the Mooseheads' other goal and Mika Cyr and Aleksi Anttalainen scored for the Wildcats.
Gravel made 27 saves for Halifax and Francis Leclerc stopped 27 shots for Moncton.
"We stuck to our game plan and the coaches' system and shut them down," Flower said. "We got up early and we didn't play our best game tonight but we stayed cool at the end and won the game."
Games 3 and 4 will be in Moncton on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"You've got to win four to win the series so it would be nice to get two wins in Moncton," Flower said.
Notes: Alexis Sansfacon, BO Groulx, Cole Stewart, Marcel Barinka and Samuel Dube did not play for Halifax. ... There were 8,902 fans at Saturday's game.