While the Montreal Canadiens snapped their eight-game losing streak against the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday night, the Laval Rocket saw their five-game winning streak come to an end at the PPL Center, thanks to a 37-save shutout performance from Lehigh Valley netminder Alex Lyon, and goals from Kyle Criscuolo and Tyler Wotherspoon.
The Rocket, who are in the midst of playing three games in three days, fell flat and failed to generate quality scoring chances despite their offensive 7-5 victory over the Syracuse Crunch the night before.
Five penalties were called in the opening frame, with three of them going against the Phantoms and two against the Rocket. Though it was Laval that went to the power play first, it was Lehigh Valley who nearly found the back of the net while down a man. Keith Kinkaid had to make his first big save of the night as Even McEneny backhanded the puck from behind his own net into the slot, where Lehigh Valley’s James de Haas was left all alone to take a shot. De Haas’s slight hesitation on the play allowed Kinkaid to slide over with him and corral the puck against his pads, keeping the game scoreless early on.
The Phantoms got another good chance to score during their own first powerplay of the night, which came less than a minute after their delay of game penalty expired. Greg Carey one-timed the puck from in close on Kinkaid, who had to quickly make himself bigger to prevent the goal.
The Rocket’s first real scoring opportunity came from the stick of Charles Hudon, who had scored two goals in his team’s big Friday night victory over the Crunch. Hudon, who has arguably one of the hardest shots in the American Hockey League, let it rip from the top of the faceoff circle, but was stopped by Lyon, who followed the play all the way through.
Charles Hudon had a good luck on the PP with his one-timer, but no dice. pic.twitter.com/i0Ud1qUxwU— Sarah Kossits (@skossits) January 12, 2020
Laval had the momentum on their side and largely dominated the end of the first period. They multiplied their scoring chances and kept putting shots on goal, but Lyon stood tall to keep the game tied at zero after 20 minutes of play. By the time the buzzer sounded he had made nine saves, whereas Kinkaid only had to make three.
The Rocket carried that momentum with them into the second period, where they added 13 more shots to their total while limiting Lehigh Valley to just four more throughout the second frame. The period wasn’t all positive for the Rocket however, as Joe Cox headed to the dressing room in a significant amount of pain after being kneed by Isaac Ratcliffe in the neutral zone.
Isaac Ratcliffe sticks out his knee and takes down Joe Cox, who retreats to the dressing room in a lot of pain. pic.twitter.com/PrQ8nHwk6R— Sarah Kossits (@skossits) January 12, 2020
Though the Rocket limited Lehigh Valley to just 13 shots in the first 40 minutes of play, it was their 10th shot of the game that found the back of the net. Criscuolo’s 15th of the season went through heavy traffic in front of Kinkaid, giving the Phantoms a 1-0 lead heading into the third.
Cox was back on the Rocket’s bench to start the third period, which opened with Alexandre Alain coming inches away from netting the game-tying goal. Lyon had to sprawl on his stomach to maintain his team’s 1-0 lead, but he was just able to get his glove on the puck before it crossed the goal line.
The Rocket with a good chance early in the third to tie things up, but they just miss. pic.twitter.com/xjRmuYHoGv— Sarah Kossits (@skossits) January 12, 2020
The Rocket’s hope of winning their sixth straight game fizzled out shortly after that save, as two minutes later Wotherspoon’s third goal of the season trickled through heavy traffic and behind Kinkaid, who ultimately made 19 saves in Laval’s loss.
The closest the Rocket came to getting back in the game after Lehigh Valley’s second goal was when Phil Varone snuck down the middle of the ice and tipped the puck toward the net, but Lyon snatched it up with his glove.
Head coach Joel Bouchard called a timeout to rally his troops for the comeback with 3:17 remaining in the 2-0 game, and decided to pull Kinkaid then as well. Despite the extra attacker on the ice that whole time, the Rocket were unable to generate any offence, only successfully defending the empty net to lock in the final score of 2-0.