After a dramatic shootout win on Friday night, the Laval Rocket and Belleville Senators renewed hostilities once again on Saturday. Lukas Vejdemo and Connor LaCouvee were the catalysts in the previous victory, and last night it was Michael McNiven’s turn to tend the twine. Facing him was Marcus Hogberg for the second straight game, and a very determined group of Senators led by Erik Brannstrom looking to even the score for this weekend.
After a physical game the previous night, it didn’t take long for that same element to rear its head in this contest, either. Just over five minutes into the game, Antoine Waked and Brannstrom got into a tussle, sending both to the box for roughing, and the game to four-on-four for two minutes. With the ice a little more open, the Senators struck first just like the previous night. A lost battle along the boards opened a space in the middle of the ice for Jack Rodewald who took a pass from Nick Paul in the corner and snapped home the game’s opening goal.
Then, the parade to the penalty box for both teams began, which kickstarted a parade of goals on the man advantage. Cody Goloubef took a seat for delay of game, and it didn’t take long for the Rocket power play to take advantage, with Alex Belzile striking in under 30 seconds to tie the game up.
Rocket gif thread here:— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2019
Alex Belzile's 14th of the year comes on the power play. pic.twitter.com/fAGUKWiAXL
Then the Rocket repaid the favour, with Xavier Ouellet sitting this time for holding, and the Senators responded with the second of six straight power-play goals between the teams. Brannstrom’s shot flew in from the point, and McNiven batted the puck down, but Nick Paul was there to pot home the rebound.
A goalie interference call wiped out a potential David Sklenicka goal, but thanks to back-to-back penalties by Belleville, the Rocket started the second period on a five-on-three power play, but trailing a goal.
That two-man advantage would not need much time in the period to find the tying goal, with Jake Evans scoring it adding his second point of the night. A quick cycle led to an Alexandre Grenier shot, and Evans grabbed the rebound to slot it home to tie the game at two.
Jake Evans gets in on the power play, his 13th goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/EMXMJGszXn— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2019
Back-to-back penalties by Cale Fleury and Michael Pezzetta gave the Senators consecutive power plays. Nick Paul and Filip Chlapik both converted during them, putting Belleville quickly on top by two goals under six minutes into the period.
Goloubef and Alex Belzile took coincidental minors for unsportsmanlike conduct, which was then followed by consecutive penalties by J.C. Beaudin and Chase Balisy again handing the Rocket a five-on-three power play. Great patience with the puck by Grenier opened a shooting lane for Fleury, who in turn blistered his seventh goal of the year by Hogberg.
Cale Fleury with his seventh of the year, part of tonight's power play parade in Belleville. pic.twitter.com/uhFQaM0CL5— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2019
The Rocket almost gave the goal back immediately with Alexandre Alain heading to the box for a hooking infraction. A stalwart defence and some timely goaltending by McNiven killed off the penalty, seemingly the only one of the game for both sides.
The high-octane affair headed into the intermission with the Rocket trailing by one goal, 4-3.
Things got off on the wrong foot to start the third period, with Pezzetta taking a double minor for high-sticking, but also managing to take Andreas Englund off the ice for two minutes as well. While Laval killed off the two-minute difference, they still surrendered a fifth goal, the first at five-on-five in the game. Darren Archibald let a backhand go in the slot, and while McNiven got his glove on it, the puck hit off of it and trickled in for a fifth Belleville goal.
It didn’t take long for the Senators to shoot themselves in the foot, with Goloubef taking another minor penalty, this time for slashing. Then while Laval was on the man advantage, Justin Falk was called for interference, presenting another five-on-three chance for the Rocket.
Grenier continued an incredible game with his third assist on a goalmouth feed to Belzile. Daniel Audette worked the puck to Grenier, who fired a pass across the crease, and right to Belzile who directed the shot home to get Laval within a goal.
Alex Belzile gets his 15th of the year, gets Laval within a goal. pic.twitter.com/eNx6l4XU09— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2019
Goloubef played the goat one more time in this game, with a pair of penalties, one for tripping and another for unsportsmanlike conduct after the call. Heavy pressure in the Belleville end was bolstered by McNiven heading to the bench, and then the resilient Rocket found the tying goal. Grenier was again the driving force, collecting his fourth primary assist of the night. His shot rebounded off of Hogberg’s pads, and the crafty Latvian Nikita Jevpalovs jumped all over the rebound, slamming the tying goal home.
Nikita Jevpalovs completes the comeback and forces overtime with a goal in the dying seconds, then mocks Darren Archibald's celly. pic.twitter.com/9YUV4Zu7I0— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2019
Forcing the game to the extra period was a huge bonus for the Rocket, and then they nearly won it a half dozen times in the overtime frame. Hogberg was busy, turning away eight chances, several of them on odd-man rushes, and he wasn’t the only one. McNiven faced only one shot, but had a twisting save to keep the chance out of the net. After a standing ovation for the netminders, the game headed to a shootout between the divisional rivals.
Logan Brown scored on his attempt, but McNiven turned away both Adam Tambellini and Nick Paul to give his side a shot. Hogberg stopped the crafty Audette and Belzile, leaving the game on the stick of Jevpalovs. The Latvian came in with a slow approach, then as he got in close on net, he attempted to emulate Peter Forsberg’s famous shootout move, but the Senators netminder got his toe on the puck, earning a second point for Belleville.
Nikita Jevpalovs almost pulls off the Forsberg in the shootout, but Marcus Hogberg denies him.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 17, 2019
Rocket fall after a furious comeback in the third period. pic.twitter.com/5BICHA2UAg
Now nine points behind the Senators after the shootout loss, the Rocket will head back to Place Bell for a Wednesday night showdown with the Providence Bruins.
1. Nick Paul (2 Goals, 2 Assists)
2. Marcus Hogberg (Win, 33 Saves)
3. Alex Belzile (2 Goals, 1 Assist)