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Rocket vs. Devils recap: Nikita Scherbak scores, gets injured in Laval’s first loss of the season

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Despite outshooting Binghamton 37-17, Laval drops a 5-1 decision at home.

Club de hockey Canadien, Inc.

The Laval Rocket and Binghamton Senators put on a great show for the fans in attendance at Place Bell on Friday night, with a total of 15 goals on the scoreboard at the end of the night. The two teams took to the ice less than 24 hours later for the second half of the weekend’s back-to-back series.

The energy was still on display in Saturday’s game, with both teams skating and moving the puck well.

The first great opportunity went to the Devils after Michael McCarron snowed MacKenzie Blackwood after the goaltender had frozen the puck. Binghamton made the big centreman and his team pay for that transgression when an attempted shot went off Matt Taormina in front of the net and across the crease to an open Nick Lappin.

The Rocket’s attempts to get back on even terms immediately were thwarted by the disciplined neutral-zone forecheck of the Devils, turning them back time after time on their attempted rushes up ice.

They weren’t able to stop Nikita Scherbak from gaining the offensive zone with speed later in the period, however. He slowed to force the Devil defending him to slide into the shooting lane, and used him as a screen. Despite wearing a full cage after a two-handed slash to the face in Friday’s game, Scherbak was able to fire a wrist shot to the top corner and get his team to the first intermission with the game tied.

The Devils didn’t take long to restore their lead after the break, with the puck finding a wide-open Brian Strait to the right of Rocket goaltender Charlie Lindgren, and the forward made it a 2-1 game less than a minute into the second period.

From there, the Rocket took over possession with extended time in the offensive zone, with several good chances, but Wedgewood kept them at bay, sometimes just getting enough of the puck to keep it out of the net. He was the main reason why the 30-9 edge in shots for the Rocket after two periods didn’t reflect in the score of the game.

Not helping matters was a poor breakout attempt from Jakub Jerabek in the middle of the frame, leading to a turnover in his own end. He raced back to the front of the net in an attempt to recover, but skated right past Nathan Bastian in the slot to do so, and was in no position to defend when Bastian received a pass and make it 3-1 for the visitors.

Antoine Waked landed a big hit in his zone later in the period, leading Joe Blandisi to seek retribution by jumping him in the neutral zone. That personal vendetta drew a four-minute sentence from the official, giving the Rocket a prime opportunity to get back into the game.

The Rocket had a difficult time getting any momentum going, with Jerabek’s indecision at the blue line stalling the puck movement with the man advantage. When he did attempt a pass it was out of range of the recipient, forcing Laval to regroup.

Once Taormina came on the ice, the Rocket played with more conviction. They got several good looks, but once again were unable to solve Wedgewood.

Laval looked to be resigned to the loss in the third period, and a wraparound goal from Lappin to make it 4-1 five minutes in essentially sealed their fate. He capped off his hat trick with an empty-net goal to give his team a 5-1 win.

Unfortunately, the Rocket didn’t just lose the game, but have potentially lost Scherbak to a leg injury. An awkward hit along the boards in the third period sent the lone Rocket goal-scorer to the bench. Despite coming out later for a shift, was unable to put much weight on the leg and headed for the dressing room immediately afterward, not returning to the bench for the rest of the game.

Thoughts

  • Charlie Lindgren wasn’t up to his usual standard this weekend. After allowing just two goals over the first two games a week ago, he allowed six in Friday’s game and another four on Saturday. Several of the goals should have been routine stops on long-distance shots, and it is a bit odd to see him struggle after seeing him play so well in both the season opener and Canadiens training camp and pre-season. It is likely just a brief slump for netminder.
  • The Rocket move the puck around the ice very quickly, making it difficult for defenders to keep track of the offensive threats and allows for good transition through the neutral zone. The Rocket will see much less discplined defensive structures than what the Devils presented tonight this season, so that should translate to offence more often than it did last night.
  • Matt Taormina is a great quarterback on the power play, and he was also very efficient at prevenitng the Devils from clearing the puck all the way down the ice to get a change while short-handed. On several different occasions, he was able to knock down an icing attempt with his stick and relaunch the offensive attack. That hand-eye coordination will likely allow the Rocket to score a few man-advantage goals against tired penalty killers this season.

The Rocket will be back on the ice next weekend, when they play not only three games in three days, but will visit three different cities is as many days as well. The road trip starts in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton against the Penguins on Friday, heads to Bridgeport as the team visits the Sound Tigers on Saturday night, and wraps up in Providence with a battle with the Bruins on Sunday afternoon.