Cale Fleury opened the scoring on a power play goal early in the first period and Michael McNiven made 24 saves for the shutout as the Laval Rocket returned home and defeated the Manitoba Moose 3-0 on Friday night at Place Bell.
The Rocket, playing their first home game after six road games, were always the better team in this one, and dominated play over the first 40 minutes before coasting to victory.
Laval’s power play set the tone less than five minutes into the game. The first unit got things going with pressure on Eric Comrie and the second unit continued where they left off. The combination of Michael Chaput and Fleury combined to create several shots, but Fleury’s third attempt from the blue line was the charm as he beat Comrie for his fifth goal of the season.
The next shift, the fourth line had a chance, and were in the offensive zone when Morgan Adams-Moisan took an untimely penalty less than a minute after the Rocket scored on the power play.
However, instead of the Rocket allowing the Moose back into the game, they took control.
While shorthanded, the play started when David Sklenička blocked a shot attempt in front of McNiven. Karl Alzner picked up the puck and sprung Nikita Jevpalovs on a rush. Lukas Vejdemo followed up the play to create a two-on-one. Jevpalovs found Vejdemo, who made no mistake for his eighth of the season and first AHL shorthanded goal to make it 2-0 just two minutes after Fleury’s goal.
McNiven, who got the start in the opener of the two-game series, wasn’t tested much throughout the game but with around seven minutes he had to make his first big save when Logan Shaw found Michael Spacek for a tip right in front.
Late in the first period, the two teams traded five-on-three chances. Manitoba’s was first and the Rocket penalty kill did a great job of killing the 42 seconds. They did a great job all game, going 6/6 on the night. That performance moved their penalty kill up to 28th in the AHL.
Laval received a five on three of heir own when the Moose took a second penalty as the period expired while already shorthanded. Laval started the second period with over a minute of a two-player advantage.
Like the Moose before, Laval wouldn’t get much going on the power play. The best chance was when Xavier Ouellet left the zone to try and get forgotten by the coverage before skating into a one-timer.
Just 18 seconds after the second penalty ended, Maxim Lamarche fired a wrist shot through traffic. Alexandre Alain was in crease right in front of Comrie and the puck found its way in the net to make it 3-0. The Moose were looking to get the call on the ice changed, but there’s no challenges in the AHL and the referees can’t review that type of play.
Things got a little heated shortly after the goal. Michael Pezzetta crashed the net on a Rocket shot, and Comrie reacted by slashing him in the leg. That got a scrum started with four different players going to the penalty box, but Comrie’s act went unpenalized.
Throughout the rest of the second and third periods, the Rocket went into shutdown mode and played with a bit less urgency.
Laval received another five-on-three chance in the second period, but the score would remain 3-0.
The Moose had three more power play chances in the third period, but Laval killed them all. The power plays did see McNiven tested a bit more as the Moose had 11 of their 24 shots in the final frame, holding Laval to just two as they were content on running out the clock. Comrie made 20 saves for Manitoba.
- Alex Kile and Hayden Verbeek were healthy scratches and replaced by Phélix Martineau and Morgan Adams-Moisan. Adam Plant and Ryan Culkin were scratched on defence.
- Dale Weise left the game briefly late in the first period after getting hit in the face with a puck but returned for the start of the second period.
- With McNiven starting on Friday night, it should be expected that Charlie Lindgren will get the start for Saturday’s afternoon game. Puck drop is 3pm at Place Bell and a ticket for that game gets you access to the Canadiennes game immediately following.