Coming on the heels of a tough overtime loss on Wednesday night, the Laval Rocket were in need of some consistent play going forward. In their way were the AHL-leading Toronto Marlies, and when the Habs and Maple Leafs AHL teams clash, pretty much anything can happen, regardless of each team’s standing.
And in the team’s first teddy bear toss, the Rocket fell 3-1 on Saturday night at Place Bell.
Starting in net for the Marlies would be Garret Sparks, and opposite him would be Charlie Lindgren, who would look to build on his outstanding performance Wednesday night.
It was an inauspicious start for Laval, as they not only started the game with an icing almost immediately, but also were behind on the shot clock for a solid chunk of the period. A Jordan Boucher penalty put the Rocket’s less-than-reliable penalty kill to the test with just over five minutes gone. Charlie Lindgren and the special teams unit were more than up to the task. The Marlies then handed the Rocket a golden opportunity with back-to-back penalties, the first being Dmytro Timashov for holding, and then Travis Dermott for slashing.
On both man advantages the Rocket had only a few solid chances to get pucks on the net, and they were either turned away by Sparks, or blocked by the Toronto defenders. Unfortunately for the Rocket, David Broll’s ill-timed interference penalty would come back to bite the team almost instantly. Broll decided to shove a Marlies player into their own goalie, and just seven seconds into the man advantage a nifty passing play was finished off by Kasperi Kapanen, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead.
The Rocket, to their credit, pushed back almost immediately, as 30 seconds later Niki Petti scored to tie the game up. Petti would chip a puck past a Toronto defender and break in on a two on one, then from the face-off dot he let a wrist shot fly and beat Garret Sparks.
Speaking of Petti here is the the 2017 Teddy Bear Toss goal! pic.twitter.com/WfRPj9j301— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 9, 2017
Not only did Petti tie the game, his goal also meant that thousands of teddy bears rained down at Place Bell. Also of note is that Garret Sparks left the game immediately after the goal and would not return due to what was a likely injury, Calvin Pickard replaced him and faced no shots through the end of the period.
The second period featured much of the same back-and-forth action as the first, with both sides trading power play chances throughout the 20 minutes. Calvin Pickard shined bright as he not only turned away a pair of Chris Terry scoring chances during a four-on-four situation, but also stopping Antoine Waked’s dangerous breakaway chance late in the period.
Antoine Waked turns Timothy Liljegren inside out, but can't beat Pickard on the breakaway pic.twitter.com/x4ZBdMwPWZ— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 9, 2017
After a shaky start the Rocket took over control of the game in the second period, despite a few Marlies chances, the run of play was firmly in Laval’s favour. If not for some outstanding play in net by Pickard, the Rocket were likely looking at a multiple goal lead headed into the third period.
Despite a very good second period where they owned the shot counter, and the majority of high danger chances, the Rocket would succumb to old woes in the third. In fact it would take several minutes for Laval to even put a shot on net against Pickard in the final period.
The Marlies came out flying and put the pressure on Lindgren early and often. Waked, after being denied on a prime scoring chance in the prior period, found his night somehow getting worse. Waked received a pass near centre ice, and he moved to carry the puck up the boards. As he moved towards the wall, Andrew Nielsen stepped in and leveled him with a high, hard hit, and sent the rookie forward immediately to the room.
Antoine Waked gets hit high by Andrew Nielsen, and immediately went to the room afterwards pic.twitter.com/96akDE0EV9— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 9, 2017
Then, it would be a lack of discipline that reared it’s ugly head for the Rocket once more, as Yannick Veilleux was called for hooking just over seven minutes into the period. While it would take longer than seven seconds, the Marlies power play once again solved the Rocket penalty kill, and for the second time in the game would take the lead on a man advantage goal. Chris Mueller took a pass from Miro Aaltonen at the point, and with all day to find a lane, let his shot fly. Where it hit off a Laval player or off of an errant stick, Lindgren appeared a bit surprised when the light went on behind him.
Marlies take the lead back on the power play, Chris Mueller beats Lindgren pic.twitter.com/AKRlhFbkJM— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 9, 2017
Things wouldn’t get much better for Laval as the period went on, even with their own power play just past the halfway point of the period, they were unable to solve the Marlies puzzle. It continues to be an on going issue for the Rocket this month, as their man advantage went 0-for-6 on the night, and fell to 1-for-18 on the month so far.
A late interference call by Tom Parisi hampered the comeback mightily in the closing minutes. When Lindgren finally made his way to the bench in the final minute, the Marlies gave the Rocket nothing to work with. Then after forcing an offside, Travis Dermott would deposit the puck into the empty net shortly after and seal the win for Toronto.
With their loss, and a Syracuse Crunch win the Rocket fall further behind in the North Division standings, trailing the Marlies by 12 points. These two teams square off again Saturday afternoon to finish up a busy week for the Rocket. Michael McNiven will be between the pipes after Lindgren played last night. The Marlies may be forced to play Calvin Pickard depending on how serious Sparks’ injury is.
1. Kasperi Kapanen (1G 1A)
2. Niki Petti (1G, made it rain bears)
3. Calvin Pickard (W, 18 Saves)