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Laval @ Binghamton recap & highlights: Rocket offence sputters late in shootout loss

The Rocket squandered a two-goal lead, en route to a second straight divisional loss.

Shanna Martin

The Laval Rocket continued their trip through New York on Saturday, looking for an immediate bounce-back following a difficult 5-2 loss in Rochester on Friday night. They had dealt with mental mistakes, a giant brawl that saw their star player ejected, and an effort level that did not go unnoticed by head coach Joël Bouchard.

True to his word, Bouchard shuffled up his forward lines, sending Laurent Dauphin to the fourth and promoting winger Joe Cox, who looked excellent in his return from injury. The defensive pairs got a shakeup, with veterans Karl Alzner and Xavier Ouellet playing together, while the rookies Josh Brook and Otto Leskinen manned the second pair. While Keith Kinkaid was hardly the issue in Rochester, he ceded the net to Cayden Primeau, with the rookie looking to build on his win Wednesday in Syracuse.

After allowing too much zone time and open space to the Americans on Friday, the Rocket clamped down on the Binghamtom Devils early. They kept shots primarily to the point, but even with an improved early showing, the Devils nearly opened the scoring when Brett Seney’s chance clanged off the crossbar and out.

The game itself was not a high-event affair as the first period wore on. Many shots went high or wide of the netminders, and the greatest action came in the form of a scrap between Michael Pezzetta and Brandon Baddock.

Things got tougher for the Rocket in the final minutes of the period, as Leskinen, then Dauphin, took penalties in short order, putting Laval on a three-on-five penalty kill. The strong efforts of Alzner and Ouellet in front of Primeau, in addititon to great work from Jake Evans and Lukas Vejdemo, kept the Devils from converting. While the Rocket had a few looks late, they couldn’t put one past Gilles Senn, and the first period ended scoreless.

The tentative play continued into the second period as both sides probed for an opening or weakness. Michael McLeod had the first such chance, banking a pass to himself off the wall around Christian Folin, creating a clear lane to the net. McLeod broke in, but a sliding pad save by Primeau denied the speedy forward a goal.

Shortly after it was Laval’s turn on the power play as Matt Tennyson sat for slashing, yet it came to nothing as the man advantage couldn’t open up a cleaning shooting lane.

With much of the period gone, it looked like the two teams were destined for another goalless 20 minutes, but the Rocket forwards came to life in a big way. The top line weaved its way through the Devils’ defence, with Evans sidling along the boards to get the puck to Charles Hudon. Hudon pulled the puck in, then rifled his 20th goal of the year to make it a 1-0 game for the Rocket.

Thirty-six seconds later, the lead was doubled for Laval thanks to a stunning effort from Dauphin. He collected an Alzner pass, split through the Devils’ defence, picked up his own blocked shot, and threw it by Senn at a sharp angle to make it a two-goal game.

Leskinen added to his team-leading penalty-minute tally with another two-minute minor, but the Rocket, and Primeau, held strong to keep Binghamton off the board. When the intermission horn sounded, it was Laval in control with their two-goal lead, and their offensive legs churning under them after a slow start.

The Devils did little to help their situation to start the third, with Baddock tripping up Phil Varone, sending the Rocket forward hard into the boards and leaving him slow to get to the bench. While the man advantage generated some shots, it did not yield any more goals, and resulted in a some momentum swinging back to Binghamton.

Following the penalty, the Rocket failed to clear the puck out of a dangerous spot, and Kyle Cumiskey stepped into his shot, firing a laser by Primeau to cut into the Laval lead.

The Rocket nearly restored their two-goal lead with just over seven minutes gone, Dauphin and Kevin Lynch sprung an odd-man rush, with Dauphin shoveling his shot in on Senn. The Devils’ netminder denied him with a pair of stacked pads, then battled across to swipe away the rebound and keep Laval’s lead at just a single goal.

Matthew Peca then took a seat for holding, giving the Devils a power play with just over eight minutes left to play. While the Rocket fought off the power play they didn’t stop the follow up attack, as Josh Jacobs’s big point shot was stopped by Primeau, but it trickled through his pads and off his skate, then slowly into the net as the Rocket tried desperately to sweep it away.

Already struggling to get the momentum back on their side, the Rocket continued to get in their own way as Riley Barber went off for tripping with just over three minutes left to play. The Rocket again fought the Devils’ attack off as they tried to generate a late push of their own to try to avoid overtime, but to no avail.

Despite an 8-1 shot advantage for the Rocket, the steadfast play of Senn forced the game to a shootout, as he denied a number of dangerous Rocket chances. The goalie continued to stonewall the Rocket, denying Barber and Hudon, while Jesper Boqvist and Joey Anderson scored to clinch the comeback win for the Devils.

Final Score: Binghamton 3, Laval 2 (SO)

The Rocket now have a short break for the AHL All-Star Weekend, and won’t be back in action until Friday, January 31 when they’ll welcome the division-leading Belleville Senators to Place Bell.