After snapping a seven-game losing streak on Friday night against the Devils, the Laval Rocket looked to start a winning streak with the momentum. The lineup from the previous night remained the same, with the only change being Michael McNiven starting in net against MacKenzie Blackwood.
After making a habit of starting slowly in other games, the Rocket completely locked down the opening period in front of McNiven. They allowed no shots on net through 20 minutes, while directing eight of their own on Blackwood. While the defensive performance to start the game was a highlight in and of itself, Nikita Jevpalovs stole the spotlight with under three minutes left to play.
Lukas Vejdemo chipped the puck across the zone, and Jevpalovs collected it on the right boards, dangling around multiple Devils before firing a puck off of Morgan Adams-Moisan for the first goal of the game.
Nikita Jevpalovs with the dangles, and his shot deflects off of Morgan Adams-Moisan for a Laval goal. pic.twitter.com/xN2wISpEw8— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 17, 2019
The goal was the first of Adams-Moisan’s AHL career, and it sent the Rocket roaring into the intermission with a boatload of momentum following their strong first period.
Laval’s hustle continued into the early parts of the second period, as the Rocket doubled their lead over the Devils with just over three minutes gone on the clock. Alexandre Grenier battled with Yegor Yakovlev for a loose puck in the Devils’ zone, and Yakovlev stumbled, also tripping up Grenier. The veteran forward still managed to corral the puck as he rose to his feet, and calmly roofed a shot past Blackwood for a two-goal lead.
Great individual effort by Alexandre Grenier for his tenth goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/Z2IGp26NoG— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 17, 2019
The momentum shifted abruptly from there, with the Devils digging in and quickly turning the game around on the ice, and on the scoreboard. A failed clear by Daniel Audette was held in by the Devils, and eventually fed to Tariq Hammond at the blue line. The Binghamton defender snapped a shot through McNiven from distance; just the second shot of the game for the Devils.
Less than two minutes later, the game would be tied up, as the Rocket failed to get the puck out of their own zone. Michael McLeod got the puck on McNiven, and in the ensuing scramble Nathan Bastian poked the rebound home, knotting the game at two goals apiece, despite the Devils having just five total shots.
Those two goals shifted the Binghamton offence into gear, and they piled up 16 shots in the second period after being shut out in the first. For Laval, they were playing defence on the back foot, seemingly having lost the fire from the start of their game.
Luckily, McNiven recovered quickly from the two goals to slam the door shut on a potent Binghamton attack. The two sides headed to their locker rooms tied at two, and the third period entirely up for grabs.
After a period where they were dominated on the shot clock, and spoiled their two-goal advantage, the Rocket came out to send a message in the final period. They did just that, with a pair of goals in rapid succession with a little over seven minutes gone.
Jevpalovs was at the center of it all again, this time linking up with Vejdemo for the Swedish forward’s seventh goal of the year. Alexandre Alain threaded a leading pass to Jevpalovs, who in turn put a perfect cross-ice feed on Vejdemo’s stick. The Swede had no issue slotting it by Blackwood, and putting Laval back on top.
Nikita Jevpalovs with another great assist tonight, this time Lukas Vejdemo with the finish in close. pic.twitter.com/smooxd6Qp0— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 17, 2019
Much like the Devils in the previous period, the Rocket struck again quickly, with Alex Belzile doing the damage. Michael Chaput pounced on McLeod, forcing a turnover. Belzile jumped on the loose puck and sniped a fourth Laval goal by Blackwood, giving his side a nice cushion before the midway point of the period.
Michael Chaput gets the puck free and Alex Belzile scores on the breakaway.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 17, 2019
4-2 Rocket pic.twitter.com/9fuuhAyhrY
A big stop right on the goal line off the ensuing faceoff by McNiven kept the Rocket lead at two goals, and it stayed that way until the final minute of the game. With the Binghamton net empty, Daniel Audette deposited a second straight empty-net goal to close out the weekend sweep with a 5-2 victory.
It’s a very short turnaround for the Rocket now though, as they’ll head back to Canada for an afternoon showdown with the Belleville Senators on Monday, then head back to New York for a Wednesday matchup with the Syracuse Crunch.
1. Lukas Vejdemo (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
2. Nikita Jevpalovs (2 Assists)
3. Tariq Hammond (1 Goal)