Rookie goaltender Nathan Lieuwen stopped all 39 shots he faced to earn his first American Hockey League win and Maxime Legault scored what proved to be the game-winner as the Rochester Americans completed their season-long five-game road swing with a 3-0 win over the San Antonio Rampage Sunday at the AT&T Center. The win also snaps a five-game winless streak against the Rampage as the Amerks finish their road trip with a 3-2-0-0 record and improve to 35-25-3-1 overall on the season.
Legault, along with veteran forwards Matt Ellis and Nick Tarnasky each scored for the Amerks, who have now won three of their last four games to move within one point of Houston for fifth place in the Western Conference standings. Lieuwen, who was making just his third start of the season, was brilliant between the pipes for Rochester, especially in the third period when he steered aside all 18 San Antonio shots, including several from close range.
Rampage goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris made 22 saves in the losing effort as San Antonio was held scoreless for just the fourth time this season.
The Amerks jumped out to a 1-0 lead with Legault’s ninth goal of the season at 15:58 of the first period. Tarnasky moved out of the left corner and made a centering feed to Luke Adam, who was unable to connect on the shot, but Legault scooped up the puck and sent it to the upper right corner of the net. The goal, which eventually held up as the game-winner, gives the forward six over an 11-game stretch, one that began with a two-goal game against Lake Erie on March 3.
Rochester added to its lead late in the opening frame as Ellis gave the visitors a 2-0 advantage heading into the first intermission. The Amerks captain corralled a loose puck off the right wing boards at center ice and sped away into the San Antonio zone with an open lane to the net. Using a streaking Frederick Roy as a decoy, Ellis forced Grumet-Morris off the goal-line and handcuffed the Rampage netminder with a quick shot inside the near post with just 47 seconds remaining in the period. Cody McCormick garnered the lone assist on Ellis’ fifth of the season.
Tarnasky put the Amerks ahead 3-0 with a power-play tally midway through the second stanza. As Adam looked to set up McCormick breaking in from the left side, his pass through traffic caromed off a San Antonio defenseman and right to Tarnasky, who fired it to the back of net for his career-high 15th goal of the season at the 11:16 mark. Adam Pardy also earned an assist on the play and now shows three points (1+2) over his last four games, including assists in back-to-back outings.
The Amerks return home to host the rival Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday, March 27 at The Blue Cross Arena in a 7:05 p.m. tilt. The ninth of 10 meetings between the teams this season will be carried live on Time Warner Cable SportChannel and Sports 1280 WHTK.