With their first month of the AHL season in the books, the Rocket began November with a meeting against their divisional rival, the Toronto Marlies. Laval picked up the first win in the season series between the two sides on Sunday, with Daniel Carr providing a pair of goals in the 3-2 victory.
Chris Terry was a late scratch for last night’s game, forcing Sylvain Lefebvre to switch to an 11-forward, seven-defencemen lineup. Eric Gelinas suited up as the extra defender, while Charlie Lindgren got the start in net.
Despite missing several of their top stars, the Rocket started strong against the Marlies. A pair of long shifts led to some dangerous chances but no actual shots on net, and not converting those chances would come back to haunt Laval shortly thereafter.
Colin Greening was the beneficiary of an incredible bounce off the end boards for Toronto’s first goal. The puck was dumped in by Nikita Soshnikov, hit the boards behind Lindgren, bounced right out to a wide-open Greening, and he beat the Laval netminder to open the scoring less than four minutes into the game.
Then the same problem that has been plaguing them this season reared it’s head again for the Rocket, as a lack of discipline put them on the penalty kill. Despite a strong start to their penalty kill, Andreas Johnsson added to Toronto’s lead.
Soshnikov broke in on net and fired a shot that was blocked by a Rocket defender. Unfortunately the puck fell right on Johnsson’s stick and he fired it past Lindgren to put the Rocket in a 2-0 hole just over 10 minutes into the game.
Andreas Johnsson picks up a loose puck and doubles the Marlies lead pic.twitter.com/6DCLTmLagj— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 1, 2017
Laval’s offence struggled mightily to get into gear in the opening period. With 15 minutes gone in the frame, the team had only three shots on net, two of which came from dump-ins at centre ice. A late surge saw the forward group generate a few shots, but Garret Sparks held the fort and kept Laval off the scoreboard.
The second period didn’t hold much more luck for Laval, as a combination of stellar goaltending, bad luck, and a putrid penalty kill saw them dig even deeper into the hole. The Rocket generated plenty of good chances, especially from Daniel Carr, but Sparks stood tall, turning away all eight shots on net.
He got the help on his goal post on a late-period Rocket power play. Matt Taormina walked into the slot uncontested and let a wrist shot fly, beating the Marlies netminder but not the steel behind him as the puck bounced away harmlessly.
In a moment that is becoming all too familiar this season, the Rocket took a bad penalty late in the period. Like clockwork, the Marlies made them pay dearly once again as Johnsson found the back of the net for the second time on the man advantage. The goal put Laval down 3-0 heading into the final period; a massive hole to climb out of minus several of their top offensive threats.
Rocket take a penalty, Rocket then concede a power play goal, Johnsson with his second of the night pic.twitter.com/L9LyeraSK1— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 2, 2017
The third period held no answers for the Rocket, who were limited to all of five shots on goal in the final period. The team didn’t help their own cause by taking another two penalties and not allowing their offence to find any rhythm whatsoever.
Compounding this was the suddenly ice-cold power play unit that was unable to take advantage of two third-period chances. While Taormina was very good moving the puck on the blue line, the team clearly missed Terry as a scoring threat. Too many plays ended up dead due to a lack of an open shooter or by trying to force passes through traffic.
Sparks didn’t have much work, coming away with an 18-save shutout, and became the Marlies’ all-time leader in that category with his win tonight.
The Rocket fall to 5-4-2 on the year, and are in need of some more scoring from their bottom-six forwards.
Laval will be back in action on Friday and Saturday for a pair of games against the defending Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch. As you may remember, it was the Crunch who knocked the AHL team, then the St. John’s IceCaps, out of the playoffs last year, so the team will be looking for some measure of revenge this weekend.
1. Andreas Johnsson (2G)
2. Nikita Soshnikov (2A)
3. Travis Dermott ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )