The Laval Rocket and Charlotte Checkers played with fire against each other on Sunday afternoon. Both teams made each other pay, but it was the Checkers who emerged victorious at game's end.
Charlotte swept the weekend series against Laval. After a 2-1 victory on Saturday night, the Checkers defeated the Rocket 7-5 during Sunday’s matinee with four power-play goals, two even strength, and a game-winning shorthanded goal.
Thanks to Michael McCarron, Laval had the lead to the start game. Noah Juulsen took a pass from Chris Terry and had all the time in the world to fire a shot from the point. The goal was initially credited to Juulsen, but it was later attributed to McCarron, who deflected Juulsen's shot.
But the back of the net wasn’t the only thing he hit.
Here's a better look at Juulsen's goal. Michael McCarron's stick clipped Nedeljkovic above the eye, not in the eye, as he was celebrating. pic.twitter.com/saTlA57Ph2— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) December 17, 2017
As the puck hit the mesh, McCarron's stick went into the mask of Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, hitting him just above the eye. Nedeljkovic had to leave the game and was replaced by Jeremy Smith after 13 minutes of action.
Noah Juulsen scores his first pro goal, but the Checkers lose their goaltender, Alex Nedeljkovic in the process. Took a stick to the mask. He's out in favour of Jeremy Smith who played last night. pic.twitter.com/HQR8aYmgHx— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) December 17, 2017
The Checkers were given lifelines to respond to the Rocket's first goal thanks to the power-play opportunities they were handed. Laval took three consecutive minor penalties in the first and Charlotte converted on all three. There was a familiar pattern in all three goals:
Firstly, Valentin Zykov tied the game at 15:59. Similarly to his game-winning goal on Saturday, the forward parked himself atop Charlie Lindgren's crease and redirected a pass into the net.
Valentin Zykov was in the exact same spot he was in when he scored yesterday, also on the power play. 1-1 game. pic.twitter.com/c8FjncPI5A— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) December 17, 2017
Almost three minutes later, Nicolas Roy gave the Checkers a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal of his own. Two Rocket defencemen, Matt Taormina and Brett Lernout were unable to cover Roy, who was first to get to the puck that caromed off the boards behind Lindgren.
Second power play goal of the period for Charlotte. Nicolas Roy scores. Two Rocket players near pic.twitter.com/zPKmQcOS0K— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) December 17, 2017
The Rocket allowed their third power-play goal of the period almost less than a minute later. Zykov took a pass from Andrew Miller before banging the puck past Lindgren. Zykov's second of the period was his 17th goal of the season and his league-leading 11th power-play goal of the year. Laval was down 3-1 after 20 minutes, largely thanks to their lack of discipline.
They did, however, draw one goal closer to the Checkers in the second period thanks to Nikita Scherbak. In his second game back from injury, the forward scored on the power play from the near-side wall. His initial shot was blocked but his second shot would not be denied.
Nikita Scherbak scores and it's 3-2 in favour of Charlotte. Power play marker for the forward who's collected a point every AHL game he's played this season. pic.twitter.com/Bdfry7tp7Q— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) December 17, 2017
The third period is where things got wild.
Fifteen seconds into the third, Juulsen carried the puck up ice and sent a harmless dump-in towards Jeremy Smith. He couldn't handle it, and all of a sudden Laval tied the game at four. The goal wasn't as nice as what we thought Juulsen's first pro goal would be, but at least he now has one.
The Rocket then regained the lead thanks to Jeremy Boucher, who sped along the near-side wall and fired a shot past Smith for his third of the year.
Things got so chippy between both sides even former Checker, Chris Terry, got involved. During a goalmouth scramble in front of Lindgren, Terry punched Andrew Poturalski in the face and wasn't penalized for it.
Not long after the punch, while McCarron was serving a penalty for roughing, Lucas Wallmark responded for the Checkers while on the power play, tying the game at four.
Now, Laval's allowed their fourth power play goal of the game. 4-4 after the Lucas Wallmark goal. This game just got nuts. pic.twitter.com/JqdmuWZ8x6— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) December 17, 2017
Scherbak then followed up with his second of the afternoon. Attempting to find a Rocket player in the crease, the puck went off a defenceman before trickling past Smith. That's 12 points in eight games for Scherbak for those counting at home.
Rocket had a goal waived off due to goaltender interference, very next play, they retake the lead thanks to Nikita Scherbak. pic.twitter.com/mccXuWvoag— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) December 17, 2017
The Checkers wouldn't quit, however, tying the game almost five minutes later thanks to Warren Foegele. Before Foegele’s even-strength goal, all of the Checkers goals came on the man advantage. Foegele's backhander was a weak one that Lindgren probably would like to have back.
The game is tied...5-5. Warren Foegele. The first even strength goal of the game. pic.twitter.com/FWVARLKU1V— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) December 17, 2017
Charlotte took the lead for good thanks to a shorthanded goal. Yes, a shorthanded goal from Clark Bishop. The forward scored on a breakaway, putting the moves on Lindgren.
Foegele added his second of the game from an empty-netter, putting the game away for good and handing the Rocket their fifth straight loss.
The Rocket only took three penalties in Saturday's loss, but were victimized in the first period on three different penalty kills. They clawed back in the game thanks to Scherbak, Boucher, and Juulsen, but their indiscipline continues to be a huge problem. The Checkers, who now boast the Eastern Conference's best power play at 23.2%, scored four times on seven man-advantage chances.
Lindgren made 31 saves, but wasn't at his best in the final period. He continues to be winless since rejoining the Rocket in late November.
The Rocket will host their next three games at home, starting with the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday night at Place Bell.
- Valentin Zykov, three points (2g, 1a)
- Lucas Wallmark, three points (1g, 2a)
- Nikita Scherbak, two points (2g)