After a weekend away, splitting their series with the Cleveland Monsters, the Laval Rocket returned home to Place Bell on Wednesday night to kick off a two-game series with the Toronto Marlies. Charlie Lindgren got the start in this one, with Michael Hutchinson in net for the Marlies.
As the playoff race intensifies, the Rocket need as many points as they can get in these coming weeks if they hope to catch up to teams like the Utica Comets, who they’ll face this Saturday at home. The Rocket currently sit 10 points back from the Comets, who are holding on to that last playoff spot in the North Division.
Perhaps it was the warm weather creeping in, but the Rocket seemed to have a spring in their step from the very start of the first period. Just over a minute in, Daniel Audette put the Rocket on the scoreboard as Hutchinson tries to play the puck unsuccessfully, bringing the score up 1-0 Rocket.
How to not play the puck, starring Michael Hutchinson— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 7, 2019
Rocket lead 1-0. pic.twitter.com/Dosq8HEw3I
This was Audette’s first regulation goal not scored on an empty net in 15 games.
Later on in the first, the Rocket got another chance in front of Hutchinson but couldn’t capitalize. Vejdemo looked solid in the defensive zone as the period wound down, separating the puck from the player and sending it back in the defensive zone to regroup. The Rocket headed into the first intermission up 1-0.
To start the second, things looked a little shakier for Laval as the Marlies spent a fair amount of time in the Rocket zone, looking to even the score. Lindgren made two great saves early on to keep his team in the lead.
Overall, the team just looked disorganized, a sharp turnaround from the smooth start they got off to in the first frame. After spending a minute or so in the offensive zone, the Rocket were back in the defensive zone, once again forcing Lindgren to make an impressive save to keep it a 1-0 game.
Marco Roy headed off on a two-minute slashing call and the Rocket were on the penalty kill. Lukas Vejdemo, who assisted on the Audette goal earlier on, had a solid short-handed scoring chance, stopped by Hutchinson. Seconds later, the Marlies were back on the offence, and Timothy Liljegren potted the Marlies’ first of the night on the power play.
David Sklenicka appeared to put the Rocket back up soon after, but it was actually re-directed by Alex Kile. Wednesday’s game was the 25th and final game of Kile’s PTO, and the Rocket will now have to sign him to another deal if they want his offensive touch for the rematch on Friday.
Nice re-direct by Alex Kile gives Laval a 2-1 lead in the second period.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 7, 2019
(AHL currently credits the goal to David Sklenicka) pic.twitter.com/Qv1dGLgLPv
A bad turnover from Brett Lernout right by Lindgren’s crease resulted in yet another Marlies goal. Jeremy Bracco recorded his 17th of the season to pull the game back into a tie.
Michael Pezzetta, playing his first game at Place Bell this season, was perhaps looking to make a lasting impression on head coach Joël Bouchard by dropping the gloves with Tom Sestito shortly after the goal. The combatants also drops their elbow pads, and that was good for a game misconduct to both players.
Michael Pezzetta likes to scrap, but bit off more than he could chew with Tom Sestito. pic.twitter.com/1XTn7AZwsM— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 7, 2019
Dmytro Timashov made it 3-2 for the Marlies nearing the end of the second. Alex Belzile was unable to get the puck out of the defensive zone on time, instead putting the puck right on the stick of Timashov.
The Rocket got off to a much better start in the final frame, looking to have renewed energy and more offensive firepower than in the second. They looked to be getting better chances right off the bat, making Hutchinson work a little harder to preserve his team’s lead. Defensively, Laval looked much more cohesive as well, and Lindgren did his part to keep the score from getting away from them anymore than it already had.
With just under six to go the Rocket tied the game at three, Daniel Audette marked his second of the night off of a no-look pass from Belzile.
Neither team found a lead before the end of the third, and so the game headed to overtime at Place Bell.
The fourth frame was short-lived, with Bracco and Rasmus Sandin combining their efforts to get the Marlies the overtime win just 40 seconds in to secure a 4-3 win.
The Rocket collect a point, and look to split the series as they play game two against the Marlies on Friday night at home.
1. Timothy Liljegren (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
2. Michael Hutchinson (Win, 24 Saves)
3. Daniel Audette (2 Goals)