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Laval vs. Cleveland recap & highlights: Tired legs and mental lapses cost the Rocket late

It looked like the Rocket were on pace to keep their Wednesday streak alive, until things fell apart in the third period

Club de Hockey Canadien

After a gruelling contest on Monday night, the Laval Rocket found themselves right back in the thick of things at Place Bell against the Cleveland Monsters. Laval had overcome an incredible performance by Jet Greaves that night to grab a shootout victory to keep a firm grasp on third place in the North Division.

The Rocket made just two lineup changes from Monday’s winning lineup, with Terrance Amorosa drawing in for the injured Tobie Paquette-Bisson on the third pair. The other change was in net as Cayden Primeau got the start. He was backed up by Kevin Poulin as Michael McNiven had been traded to Calgary earlier in the day.

Things did not start well for Laval in this contest, as the Monsters scored on their first shot. Brett Gallant entered the zone and fired a long wrister that Primeau whiffed on entirely to give Gallant his fourth goal of the year and the Monsters a lead just over two minutes in.

The response from Laval following the goal can best be described as tepid, as the legs of the Rocket seemed to be lacking some of the juice they had on Monday. Even the hustle of Shawn St-Amant to draw an interference penalty deep in the offensive zone wasn’t enough to kickstart the offence eithe as the Rocket power play failed to generate a goal for the 14th straight time.

Things did improve following their power play. They began to control the flow of play more and direct more offence toward Greaves. By the end of the first, they were still missing a goal and some true high-danger chances against the Cleveland netminder, leaving them with some work to do in the final 40 minutes.

Kevin Roy tried his best to change that right out of the gate in the second period. He broke through the neutral zone, rounded his defender, and had the netminder down, but fired his chance over the crossbar to rob himself of a highlight-reel goal.

Moments later, St-Amant was called for holding, putting the Rocket penalty kill on the ice for the first time in the contest. Laval’s penalty-killers made easy work of the Monsters’ man advantage, including Primeau making a strong save through a mountain of bodies in front of the net to keep the deficit at just one goal. From there, the Rocket’s top line found some life as Jesse Ylönen forced Greaves into a tough save with the blocker and then J.-S. Dea whistled two hard shots past the net as well, but there was still no goal to be found for Laval.

The Monsters weathered the early attack from the Rocket, and then began to mount a ton of offensive pressure that forced Primeau to be sharp at all times as the young goalie made a number of saves in close to keep his team in it.

Those saves ended up being important as Gianni Fairbrother drew a penalty late in the period, giving the Rocket a chance to tie the game up. While the first minute of the power play struggled to generate much in terms of dangerous pressure, it took just one set play to change all of that. Dea won a faceoff and Roy collected the puck along the left boards. Roy then fired it across the zone back to Dea, who put a perfect pass on the tape of Joël Teasdale to tap into the net to tie the game up as the second period came to an end.

The goal late in the second period provided all the spark the Rocket needed to launch out of the gates in the third. The fourth-line duo of Alexandre Fortin and Devante Smith-Pelly was doing well to keep the Monsters pinned in their own zone as Fortin was circling looking for an open target. Sami Niku swooped in to grab the puck, and then flicked a backhander to a wide-open Smith-Pelly who roofed his third goal of the season to give Laval a lead.

The Rocket continued to hammer chances on net following their second goal, and much like in Monday’s contest, Greaves was more than up to the task to keep them from increasing their lead. Unfortunately for Laval, their one slip-up ended up in the back of the net as a miscommunication in the defensive zone allowed Carson Meyer to set up Tristan Mullin for the game-tying goal.

Then things came unglued for the Rocket as their tired legs were showing while Cleveland wrested control in their favour. With just over two minutes left to play it was Mullin setting up a wide open Meyer for what would go down as the game-winning goal. Thomas Schemitsch added an empty-netter to seal the win for the Monsters.

Final Score: Cleveland 4, Laval 2

The Rocket now have a day to rest before they welcome the Abbotsford Canucks to Place Bell on Friday.