Charles Hudon took the pass at the blue line. He took a couple of strides forward and wound up. High. Then he brought his arms down and through the puck. When the red light went on behind Joseph Woll, Hudon went down on one knee, pumped his fist and looked into the crowd. By the time the rest of his teammates joined him in celebration, they were at the opposite blue line.
Hudon’s goal — his second in a 2:16 span late in the third period — didn’t win the game for the Rocket against the Toronto Marlies on Saturday afternoon but it tied the game and made Place Bell explode.
“It felt so good,” Hudon said about the tying goal. “Goosebumps everywhere. It was insane. The crowd was really good. The building is awesome for that. It’s a little bit like the Bell Centre but closer to the players. It was awesome. It was a great team effort. It was a great win.”
The tying goal set up a shootout and for the second straight game Alex Belzile was the hero, albeit reluctantly. Charlie Lindgren, who made 21 saves in the game, stopped Nic Petan, Kenny Agostino, and Pontus Aberg in the shootout.
“I told Charles Hudon that he was the first star. I wanted to reverse the two, but they didn’t take my plan,” Belzile said.
Belzile’s shootout winner gave the Rocket a 6-5 win, their fourth straight victory. The last time the Canadiens AHL team won four straight games, they were the St. John’s IceCaps in March 2017.
The Rocket peppered Marlies goaltender Woll with 53 shots but had to fight back from deficits of 2-0, 4-2, and 5-3 throughout the game.
“It’s nice to see that we got rewarded,” said Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard. “I like the way we showed resilience and character tonight. Even when we were down, guys stuck together, they were having fun, they were making plays.”
Toronto opened the scoring in the first period when Egor Korshkov redirected a Jeremy Bracco pass past Lindgren on the power play. They extended their lead early in the second period when Tanner MacMaster made a brilliant zone entry before feeding Rasmus Sandin at the right circle who fired a one-timer past Lindgren.
Less than three minutes later, Laval started their first comeback of the night. Lukas Vejdemo made a brilliant diving play to get the puck to Noah Juulsen who fired a shot on net. Joe Cox tipped it behind the Marlies goaltender.
Dale Weise tied the game up just 1:48 later when he broke in behind the defence and fired a forehand wrist shot past Woll to make it 2-2.
Toronto started the third period with two goals in five minutes in the first half of the frame. Darren Archibald scored his third goal of the season just 2:45 into the period to make it 3-2 when Garrett Wilson forced a turnover and fed Archibald in the slot. Jeremy Bracco scored his second of the year when he found himself alone behind the Rocket defenders and beat Lindgren on a breakaway.
“We paid heavily for our mistakes,” Bouchard said. The breakdowns led to most of the Marlies goals, leaving Lindgren out to dry.
“Give credit to [Lindgren],” Hudon said. “There were a couple of goals that weren’t his fault.”
After starting the play that led to the first goal, Vejdemo got one of his own when he finished another solid shift with a goal when he redirected a Gustav Olofsson pass into the net to make it 4-3.
The Marlies scored a second power play goal when a Pontus Aberg shot was redirected past Lindgren into the net by Xavier Ouellet. It was Aberg’s sixth goal of the year and the Rocket found themselves again down by two goals with under seven minutes remaining.
Hudon started the comeback on a power play with four minutes to go when after falling, he got back up and fired the loose puck into the net.
Hudon’s second goal of the game tied the game up with 1:44 remaining with Lindgren on the bench turning a power play into a six-on-four advantage.
In overtime, both teams had chances but the goaltenders were up to the task. It appeared that Toronto would have a great chance to win the game as Charles Hudon took a hooking penalty with 48 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing face-off, the Marlies were called for a face-off violation when the centre tried to win the draw with his hand. The overtime would then remain three-on-three with no further drama.
- The Rocket went 3-0 in three games this week against the Hartford Wolf Pack and Marlies — two teams that lead their respective divisions. After starting off 0-3, the Rocket are 7-2-1 over their next 10 games.
- Despite allowing its first two goals in 11 games, the Rocket penalty kill remains top in the AHL at 93.8%. Toronto’s power play is second in the AHL at 28.9%.
- Laval went with the same lineup that won on Friday night except in goal where Lindgren started over Cayden Primeau. Riley Barber, William Pelletier, Phil Varone, and Kevin Lynch are injured. David Sklenicka, Maxim Lamarche, and Michael Pezzetta were healthy scratches.
By the end of the game, Bouchard had swapped Antoine Waked and Belzile on their respective lines.