While October brought a bumbling start for the Laval Rocket, they began November with a blast, taking their five-game winning streak into Saturday night’s rematch with the Cleveland Monsters. On Friday night, the Rocket used a steadfast penalty kill, timely goals from their youngsters, and another nearly flawless showing from Cayden Primeau to halt Cleveland’s five-game run. Josh Brook ended up with the game-winning goal, while Lukas Vejdemo stayed hot with a goal of his own in the contest.
On Saturday, it was Charlie Lindgren’s turn to start between the pipes, and the veteran in Laval was looking for a game to turn his season around after a tumultuous start. Veini Vehvilainen took over from Elvis Merzlikins in the Monsters’ net, looking to snap the Rocket’s red-hot run.
The opening minutes were a drastic departure from the ending to Friday night’s contest. Both sides were reserved, combining for just five shots in the opening seven minutes. Ryan Collins, however, provided Laval with the opening power play of the game with a hooking penalty. The man-advantage struggles continued, with Stefan Matteau generating the best chance on a short-handed rush for Cleveland.
A long shift in the Cleveland zone was started thanks to a strong shot by Brook creating a massive pileup in from of Vehvilainen, but the Rocket were unable to poke the loose puck by him, and subsequent follow-up shots were blocked in front of the net.
Paul Bittner looked to be sending Laval to another power play, but just a few seconds in, Charles Hudon cancelled the advantage with a holding penalty of his own, pushing play to four-on-four. The extra space was all that Kevin Lynch needed as he drove hard to the net through the middle of the Monsters’ zone while fending off a defender before flicking his shot by the goalie for his first goal of the year.
Kevin Lynch with a great individual effort makes it 1-0 Rocket! pic.twitter.com/5HqIX8OykR— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 10, 2019
Calvin Thurkauf followed up the goal against by cross-checking Dale Weise in the back of the head, providing Laval another power-play chance. It was again short-lived, as Joe Cox was called for slashing just 33 seconds in.
The bad blood from the previous night boiled over in a big way at the end of the period as three Monsters players surrounded Alex Belzile for poking at their goaltender after the whistle. A full 10-player scrum broke out, and at the end of it both Marko Dano and Belzile were sent off with matching misconducts for continuing their altercation. The horn eventually signaled the end of a suddenly intense first period, one that had the Rocket leading by a goal heading into intermission.
The penalty parade did not yield to start the second period, as just 19 seconds in, Vejdemo made his way to the box for holding. The Rocket again fended off the attack, and shortly after Vejdemo exited the box they doubled their lead. The speedy Matthew Peca worked up the wall and let a shot fly from a sharp angle that squeaked through Vehvilainen’s body for Peca’s first goal of the year.
Matthew Peca scores one from a sharp angle, his first in a Rocket uniform.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 10, 2019
2-0 Laval early in the second period. pic.twitter.com/3BzsJ6SKBz
Things continued to get ugly on the physical front after that, as Justin Scott rode Jake Evans into the curved glass at the end of the Rocket bench, dropping the young forward. Antoine Waked jumped to his linemate’s defence, throwing down with Scott, and ending up with the only minor of the sequence. With Waked’s two minutes for instigating on the board, the Rocket again had to kill a penalty, which they did with ease for the fourth time on the night.
The teams traded power plays late in the period, with Nathan Gerbe sitting for the Monsters, and then McCarron taking a seat for boarding in the final minutes. The Monsters nearly broke Lindgren’s shutout bid when Markus Hannikainen broke in alone, but the netminder got the smallest bit of the shot to deny him the power-play goal.
Charlie Lindgren comes up huge with this breakaway save on a Monsters power play. pic.twitter.com/ziPx3UUYC5— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 10, 2019
The horn sent Laval to the locker room up by a pair of goals, and in firm control of the game.
Cleveland nearly potted a goal moments into the third period when Zac Dalpe wriggled loose and beat Lindgren, but not his goal post as the puck went into the corner. Laval still managed to own the majority of offensive-zone time, but the Monsters had clamped down, blocking everything they could to try to keep the Rocket from furthering their lead.
As the halfway point approached, the Monsters nearly struck again. Jakob Lilja drove hard to the crease and Lindgren had to quickly kick out his left pad to deny the Swede his first AHL goal. It looked like the Rocket flung the puck out of play in the following chaos, but the officials ruled it was not delay of game, saving Laval another penalty kill.
Laval had no issues with clearing the puck out and forcing the Monsters to beat them at the blue line with the clock ticking down. Lindgren swallowed up everything close to him, and the Rocket defenders cleared everything up and around the boards with no dramas as the final three minutes approached.
With their goalie on the bench, the Monsters tried their luck with the extra attacker, but Belzile put a quick stop to that with an empty-netter, his fifth goal on the year.
A late delay of game call against Brook put Cleveland on a last-gasp power play, and Noah Juulsen came up big with a shot block that left him reeling, but Belzile added another empty-net goal to fully close out the game with a 4-0 score.
The Rocket have now won six straight games, something no Montreal Canadiens AHL club has done in almost six years, and are an outstanding 9-2-1 since their 0-3-0 start. The team now returns home to Place Bell where they’ll face the Belleville Senators on Wednesday night.
1. Charlie Lindgren (25 Saves, Win, Shutout)
2. Kevin Lynch (One Goal, GWG)
3. Matthew Peca (One Goal)