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Rocket vs. Bruins recap & highlights: Laval squanders four-goal lead, wins in a shootout

It was a tale of two games, as the Rocket escaped with a shootout victory following a third-period collapse.

Club de Hockey Canadien

Fresh off a dominant win, their first of the year, the Laval Rocket rolled back into Place Bell looking to start a winning streak after their 0-3 start. They’d be gaining a fairly hefty addition for the game, as Michael McCarron made his season debut on a line with Michael Pezzetta and Dale Weise. His placement on the fourth line shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, as the physical duo of Weise and Pezzetta showed its truculence against Rockford on Monday while avoiding the penalty box and stymieing opposing attacks.

While Cayden Primeau notched the victory on Monday, the rotation continued for Joël Bouchard as Charlie Lindgren was named starter. The Providence Bruins opted for Maxime Lagace between the pipes. He and his team posed a tough test for the Rocket as they sat in a tie for second in the Eastern Conference with a 3-1-0 record.

Physicality reigned early on with both sides battling hard along the boards and taking the body of anyone carrying the puck. Both Jake Evans and Nikita Jevpalovs landed some solid contact along the end boards, mainly notable because both forwards are known for their offensive skills rather than their physical ones.

Providence received the first chance to crack the deadlock with Otto Leskinen sitting for hooking with about seven-and-a-half minutes gone. Some quick glove saves from Lindgren and timely blocks from the defence in front helped to neutralize the Bruins’ attack.

On the following shift, a dominant cycle in the Bruins end led to Jakub Lauko hooking a Rocket player, giving Laval a power play of their own to crack the game open. The power play struggled to keep the zone, and forced Lindgren into making more saves than anticipated.

The Rocket still found the back of the net first. With the penalty killed off, Gustav Olofsson collected a puck along the half-wall and whipped a shot on net, Pezzetta got just enough to steer the puck past Lagace for a 1-0 lead.

On the next series, McCarron was a bit too reckless, boarding Peter Cehlarik and throwing down with Chris Breen in a lopsided loss of a fight, and the Rocket were forced to go short-handed as a result of his penalties. The hyper-aggressive penalty kill found a way to not only kill the penalty, but add another goal.

Jevpalovs and Lukas Vejdemo homed in on Alex Petrovic in his own end, and the Latvian forward forced a turnover onto Vejdemo’s stick, which he buried for the short-handed tally.

The onslaught did not relent, as the duo of Phil Varone and Riley Barber connected next thanks to a dazzling play by the former. Varone dangled through the legs of not one, but two Bruins defenders before sliding a perfect pass to Barber, who had the easiest goal of his career to add the third marker in less than three minutes.

For good measure, the Rocket added one more first-period tally, with Ryan Poehling winning a power-play draw back to Joe Cox, and he snapped his shot by Lagace and put an exclamation mark on the most dominant period in Rocket history with the four-goal outburst.

The Rocket didn’t have to wait long into the second period to have a chance to pile on another goal as Charles Hudon was stopped point-blank by new goalie, Dan Vladar. A too many men on the ice penalty only compounded the Bruins’ woes, as the Laval attack continued to roll chances on net. Vladar stood strong to keep the Rocket from adding another goal early on.

After the quick flurry, the Rocket were more than content to ride out the game, taking the safe options and happily running the clock down.

With over half the period gone, the Bruins broke Lindgren’s shutout bid. A shot from the point was deflected and bounced around the Rocket net before finding its way onto Peter Cehlarik’s stick. He slotted it home to make it a 4-1 contest.

Even as Providence piled on shots, the Rocket kept them to low-danger areas, and Lindgren continued to turn them away. Cox was whistled for holding late in the period, but the Laval penalty kill handled the two minutes with ease, grabbing a few short-handed chances of their own and forcing Vladar into a delay of game penalty.

The Rocket nearly capitalized again, with Hudon’s hard shot creating a pair of rebound chances for Poehling, but the rookie was denied his first AHL goal by the horn. More concerning for the opposition was the Providence netminder’s reaction. In his quick twisting motion to make a save, he appeared to seriously injure himself, needing a lot of support to even get off the ice, unable to skate at all on his own.

With Lagace back between the pipes for the Bruins, the Rocket started the third period with a small amount of their power play remaining, but it would amount to nothing as they continued to sit on their three-goal advantage. Even with the lead, Lindgren remained sharp, stopping Anders Bjork in close following the expiration of the Providence penalty, and keeping his lead intact.

A failure to get the puck out led to an extended period of attacking time for the Bruins, and with Pezzetta slow to get up after a collision, Paul Carey walked in and sniped a shot far side on Lindgrem to cut the Laval lead.

The Rocket pushed back following the goal, trying to keep the Bruins from mounting any serious comeback pushes. Leading that charge was Hudon, who barreled in and around the Bruins’ net in search of a fifth Laval goal, but to no avail.

Another hooking penalty on Leskinen again tested the stalwart Rocket penalty-killing units, and almost immediately Lindgren came up massive on a chance set up by a pass behind the net. Beyond that, the penalty kill stood tall once more, brushing off a fourth Bruins man advantage and eating more time off the clock late in the game.

With over three minutes left, the Bruins vacated their net, and were rewarded early with the extra attacker. Olofsson left his spot in front of the net and a bouncing puck made it to Cehlarik, who buried his second of the game to make it 4-3.

It looked like the Rocket still had the victory in their grasp, but with 18 seconds remaining, Brendan Gaunce spun and fired a shot by Lindgren, and the Rocket had fully coughed up their 4-0 lead.

Overtime nearly ended quickly when Olofsson was sprung on a breakaway, but he misfired his chance to atone for his defensive gaffe. At the other end, Lindgren came up big to stop a Petrovic chance, swallowing up the shot and not allowing Carey to grab the rebound. The Rocket failed to mount a meaningful attack of their own, and the game dragged on into a shootout.

The shootout was not without its heart-stopping moments, but Lindgren turned away all six Bruins he faced, looking calm and cool despite the rough ending to the game. After five other Rocket players had missed their chances, Evans stepped up and coolly dangled around Lagace to slide home the winner and seal the second point for Laval.

The Bruins will be back on Friday for a rematch, and then the Rocket will welcome the Hershey Bears on Saturday to end their hectic week.

Three Stars

1. Jake Evans (1 Goal, Shootout Winner)

2. Lukas Vejdemo (1 Goal)

3. Peter Cehlarik (2 Goals)