After a weekend road trip to Belleville ended with a shootout win and shootout loss, the Laval Rocket stepped back onto home ice at Place Bell for a game with the Providence Bruins on Wednesday night. Laval overcame a 2-1 deficit and an eight-round shootout to pull out the 3-2 win.
The Rocket would be without Karl Alzner on defence as he was with his wife celebrating the birth of their son, Ryan Culkin would be slotted in his place. After notching the win last Friday, Connor LaCouvee got the nod to start from Joel Bouchard. Facing him would be Zane McIntyre for the Bruins.
A two-on-one rush for the Rocket started the game, and then they shortly followed that up with a Hunter Shinkaruk hooking call. The Rocket penalty kill allowed almost nothing in terms of shots against, and a timely poke check by Nikita Jevpalovs resulted in the best scoring chance for either side as Laval killed off their penalty.
After Michael Pezzetta and Antoine Waked brought some heavy hits in the offensive zone, they would end drawing a power play out it in the end, as Peter Cehlarik took his turn in the penalty box. Laval wasn’t able to convert either, but Hayden Verbeek led a great shift right after the penalty expired, nearly converting an odd-man rush with Ryan Culkin. Even with the momentum clearly on Laval’s side, the Bruins struck first with Stuart Percy’s shot hitting off of Culkin and finding it’s way by LaCouvee for a goal.
A Cale Fleury penalty could not slow down the Rocket as they killed it with zero issue, then spent over a minute circling the Bruins zone and piling up scoring chances. Daniel Audette and Fleury had the best looks, with Audette darting through the Providence defenders while picking up three shots on goal. They could not find the tying goal as the clocked ticked down to the first intermission, but the Rocket still looked like the far better club after 20 minutes.
The second period started with bang, with Connor LaCouvee immediately having to turn away a scoring chance by the Bruins with a lunging save. Then Brett Lernout laid the body into Anton Blidh on the boards creating an odd-man rush the other way. Alexandre Grenier laid the puck off for Jake Evans who drove the net with a great power move. His pass trickled through the crease and Audette picked up the puck and lifted a backhand shot home to tie the game early in the period.
Jake Evans drives the net hard and Daniel Audette finishes the play for his 13th goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/dYpLEFNd6U— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 21, 2019
The tie would not last long as the Bruins took immediate advantage of an Alexandre Alain holding penalty to restore their lead. Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson had all the time in the world to walk in from the point, and he wired a shot off the crossbar and in to give Providence their lead back.
The Rocket would have a chance to level the game shortly after due to Jakub Zboril high-sticking Alexandre Grenier, and again in spite of plenty of shots they could not get a puck by Zane McIntyre on the man advantage.
They continued to get good looks much like the first period, so much so that by the second intermission Daniel Audette would compile seven shots on net. Heading into the second break however the Rocket would put themselves at a disadvantage thanks to a bad hit from Maxim Lamarche. The horn went off as Lamarche went to engage a Bruin, but he instead gave him a shove headfirst into the boards, leading to a penalty kill to start the third period.
The aggressive Rocket penalty kill nearly tied the game thanks to a great bit of work from Lukas Vejdemo. The Swedish forward swiped the puck and looked to have lifted his backhand through McIntyre, but it didn’t cross the line by the smallest of margins. After Alex Belzile put a Bruin into the Rocket bench the Laval offence woke up once again. David Sklenicka laid off a perfect set up pass for Daniel Audette and the young forward wired his shot right off the crossbar behind McIntyre, but it deflected away from the goal.
As the Rocket pushed hard for a tying goal, they were aided by consecutive penalties by Providence, first for delay of game, and then another for interference. While they managed to move the puck well the Rocket still could not find that tying goal. Then as the game entered it’s final minutes the young guns made noise once again. Nikita Jevpalovs fired a hard pass to a pinching Cale Fleury at the side of Bruins net. Fleury grabbed the puck out of mid-air, then roofed his backhand shot over McIntyre to tie the game for Laval once again.
Cale Fleury grabs a pass out of mid-air, then roofs a backhander to tie the game in Laval! pic.twitter.com/i4uau03Y7l— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 21, 2019
Sixty minutes was not enough for the Rocket again, and for a third straight game they headed to overtime to try and earn a second point. Another hectic overtime period, highlighted by Alex Belzile battling through multiple Bruins at once solved nothing, so once more it was off to the shootout for Laval.
In a lengthy contest LaCouvee turned away six of the eight Bruins shooters, while for the Rocket Daniel Audette used his finesse to wait out Zane McIntyre for a goal. Then in an unexpected choice and with the game on the line Michael Pezzetta rifled a shootout goal by McIntyre to keep the Rocket hopes alive. LaCouvee would deny Gemel Smith and with a chance to win it Hunter Shinkaruk lifted a backhand goal of his own by the Bruins goalie, and sent the Rocket home with another point in the bank.
Hunter Shinkaruk cues up the Glorious Domination victory music with this backhand shootout winner. pic.twitter.com/PxW5lEhIPv— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 21, 2019
It’s a long way to go still if the Rocket want to even sniff the playoffs, but games like this one show that there is a lot to love about this club. They’ve beaten another playoff bound club, and did so in impressive fashion by controlling the majority of play in regulation and overtime. There is little time to rest though as the Rocket head on the road once more for a two game stint in Utica and Springfield on Friday and Saturday night.
1. Daniel Audette (1 Goal)
2. Zane McIntyre (28 Saves)
3. Cale Fleury (1 Goal)