It didn’t take long for the Laval Rocket top line to get started, and it was a sign of things to come.
Adam Cracknell opened the scoring with Chris Terry and Nikita Scherbak earning assists just 28 seconds into the game and the line combined for four goals and 10 points as the Rocket beat the Syracuse Crunch 5-2. It was their first win at home since November 14.
The Rocket took an early lead when Cracknell pounced on a Terry shot that hit the post to pot his fifth of the season and first of two in the game.
But it wouldn’t be that easy for the Rocket who are on the outside looking into the playoff picture in the AHL’s North Division.
Just 11 seconds after Scherbak went off for interference, Matthew Peca put a perfect shot past Charlie Lindgren to tie the game at 1-1. Peca walked in from the left point into the circle with under three minutes remaining in the first period.
Scherbak would get revenge in the second. The Canadiens 2014 first-round pick would take a bouncing puck off the end boards and wire a snap shot over the shoulder of Domingue for his third power play goal in two games.
Nikita Scherbak with an absolute snipe for the Rocket to put them up 2-1! pic.twitter.com/BY9ptMAwaI— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 21, 2017
But again the Crunch would tie it up. Mathieu Joseph would fire a perfect shot past Lindgren to get the game to 2-2 late in the second period.
Just 50 seconds later, the top line would answer back. Scherbak, Terry, and Cracknell would combine on a beautiful passing play and Cracknell would finish it with an even better shot for his second of the game to give the Rocket a 3-2 lead, and this time they would hold on.
Charlie Lindgren made 22 saves in the win, and even though he was beat twice, they were perfect shots. Lindgren made several big saves to keep Laval in the lead, whether it was 1-0, 2-1, or 3-2.
It was his first win since being sent back to Laval after Carey Price returned from injury even though he has allowed two goals in six of his eight starts. The issues for the Rocket of late have been more goal scoring than keeping the puck out of the net.
In the third period, the Rocket would keep the pedal down. Despite the 3-2 lead, they were actually being outshot after two periods. Actually, they scored their two second period goals on only four shots. But they would end the game leading the shot battle 25-24. Of course, it helps that they had nine power plays even though they only scored on one.
After killing their third penalty of the night (on four chances), the Rocket made it 4-2. Cracknell blocked a shot as the penalty was expiring and the puck found Brett Lernout coming out of the box alone on a breakaway. He would make no mistake, scoring his first goal of the season.
The Rocket would make it 5-2 when Chris Terry would score an empty net goal with 5:52 remaining. It was his first goal on the night to go with three assists.
Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx pulled his goaltender during a four-on-four with around 6:30 to go to make it a five-on-four but the Rocket would put the puck in the net to cement the game.
- Nikita Scherbak is proving he doesn’t want to be in the AHL much longer. In nine games this season, he has four goals and 11 assists. In the three games since his injury, he has three goals and three assists. An NHL fourth line with him and Daniel Carr would be fun.
- With his four point night, Chris Terry moves into second in AHL scoring with 14 goals and 17 assists in 27 games.
- The third member of the top line, Adam Cracknell, has four goals and three assists (seven points) in eight games since being acquired. In 15 games with Hartford he only had two goals and an assist. He is also wearing an ‘A’ with Rocket captain Byron Froese with the Canadiens.
- The Canadiens made two roster moves after the game. They recalled Brett Lernout to join the team in Calgary and they send Zach Fucale to Brampton of the ECHL. On top of Fucale being sent to the ECHL, Michael McNiven was given the green light to find a place in Laval. The chances are good the plan is to keep him in the AHL for the rest of the season.
Situation des gardiens de but du Rocket, Michael McNiven a reçu l’accord de l’équipe de se trouver un logis. Les chances sont bonnes qu’il passe la saison à Laval.— Anthony Marcotte (@anthonymarcotte) December 21, 2017
The Rocket will host the Rochester Americans for two games this weekend, Friday and Saturday night, before entering the Christmas break.