Alex Belzile scored the only goal in the shootout, and Michael McNiven made 20 saves as the Laval Rocket pulled out a 5-4 win against the Toronto Marlies on Sunday night at the Bell Centre.
Yannick Veilleux scored twice in regulation for the Rocket. Lukas Vejdemo, Ryan Poehling, and Jan Mysak also had goals.
After falling behind early in their game on Friday night in Toronto, it was a better start for the Rocket. On the opening shift, the line of Veilleux, Vejdemo, and Belzile were buzzing, and had scoring chances on each of their first three shifts. They ended up converting on one of their early chances.
Belzile broke into the zone before handing the puck off to Vejdemo. The Swede then found Veilleux breaking to the net, and made no mistake beating Andrew D’Agostini.
Great passing from Alex Belzile and Lukas Vejdemo and a nice finish from Yannick Veilleux. 1-0 Rocket pic.twitter.com/MGZ8uRfFQx— Jared Book (@jaredbook) March 14, 2021
On his next shift, Vejdemo got another chance with Otto Leskinen on a two-on-one. Vejdemo rung the rebound off the post, and it remained a 1-0 game.
“For the line of [Vejdemo, Veilleux, and Belzile] to set the tone, [...] show the way, and have some leadership, that’s fun for a coach,” said Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard.
Since Alex Burrows left the Rocket to become a coach with the Montreal Canadiens, the Laval power play struggled. They had not scored a power play goal in seven games, but, as head coach Joël Bouchard points out, heading into Sunday, they also have the fewest power play opportunities of any AHL team.
The power play got on the board early on Sunday. Ryan Poehling took a shot from the left halfwall. It ricocheted off both Marlies defenders before going into the net. It was his third goal of the season.
Just like Ryan Poehling drew it up for his third of the year... 2-0 Rocket pic.twitter.com/UyKJZA6Y3m— Jared Book (@jaredbook) March 14, 2021
The goal gave the Rocket a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
To start the second period, the Marlies switched goaltenders. Angus Redmond replaced D’Agostini, who allowed two goals on 10 shots. It was the first of several moves Toronto head coach Greg Moore made to spark his team.
It wouldn’t have any immediate effect. After creating a turnover in the neutral zone, rookie forward Jan Mysak took the puck and fired his second goal of the season with a great shot that beat Redmond. It gave the Rocket a 3-0 lead in the first half of the second period.
Jan Myšák with an absolute snipe for his second goal of the season! pic.twitter.com/Yd3s5CBJh5— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 15, 2021
Just over two minutes later, the Marlies got their first spark of the game when they scored a power play goal of their own. After Alex Galchenyuk took a hard shot, the rebound went off McNiven and right to Alexander Barabanov who made no mistake with the empty net.
Along with changing his goaltender, Moore also made some changes to his forward lines. The original line of Galchenyuk, Barabanov, and Nic Petan were mostly held in check by the Vejdemo line.
The skill and desperation of the Marlies continued into the third period. After the teams went back and forth in the first 11 minutes of the period, Toronto cut the lead to 3-2. Poehling, who had a strong game on both ends of the ice, was caught behind his net and his pass was picked off. Teemu Kivihalme pounced on the loose puck and Petan was alone at the side of the net. He also made no mistake with the shot.
Less than two minutes later, the Rocket power play struck again. Jordan Weal got the puck down low to Veilleux, who made a power move to the front of the net to beat Redmond for his second goal of the game. It was his second multi-goal game of the year, and his fourth goal overall.
Jordan Weal with the pass and Yannick Veilleux with the finish.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 15, 2021
Rocket up 4-2 with the power play goal! pic.twitter.com/EM4MlaHE8S
The Marlies wouldn’t let up. Moore pulled the goaltender early, and Toronto took advantage. With 2:44 remaining, Galchenyuk made a perfect saucer pass to Mac Hollowell, who was the forgotten man at the left circle as the Rocket played the puck. He fired the shot past McNiven to make it 4-3.
In the game’s final minute, Toronto struck again with the extra skater. Barabanov was behind the net heading to McNiven’s left. He made a no-look backhand pass that fooled McNiven who was looking the wrong way. Joey Anderson had yet another easy goal and the game was tied.
Overtime solved nothing as the two teams traded chances. Lukas Vejdemo and Cale Fleury combined for the best chance, but were unable to finish it.
Belzile scored as the Rocket’s third shooter, and McNiven made three saves, including the clincher on Petan to secure the two points for Laval. McNiven’s last loss in the AHL dates back to April 10, 2019. He is 6-0 in his last seven games (six starts) over the last three seasons.
Big celebration from McNiven after Petan misses in the shootout. pic.twitter.com/uhR7KOfYNd— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 15, 2021
There were no changes on defence. Guillaume Brisebois is still getting ready for his first game after the Vancouver Canucks loaned him to Laval and he completed his quarantine. Gustav Olofsson left the team last week to be with his fiancée Casandra for the birth of their son Simon James on Saturday.
With their next game Monday at 5:00 p.m., Bouchard decided to not dress Primeau and give him the full day off. Vasili Demchenko was McNiven’s backup.
At forward, the top nine stayed the same for the third straight game. The only changes came to the fourth line. Brandon Baddock and Arsen Khisamutdinov entered the lineup for Michael Pezzetta and Jake Lucchini.