Michael McNiven made 29 saves, including several tough ones, as the Laval Rocket started their road trip off with a 4-0 win over the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Saturday night.
McNiven was making his second start of the season, In his first start, he allowed three goals on 21 shots in just over 32 minutes. He left that game with cramps.
It was a game that snapped what has to be the longest the Montreal Canadiens organization had gone without playing the Boston Bruins organization. After a season of playing exclusively teams in Canada in the AHL and NHL, it was a return to normalcy.
Laval gave the Bruins an opportunity for a strong start early in the game when Lukas Vejdemo took a hooking penalty. The penalty kill did a good job, and killed all five of their opportunities.
The Rocket took the lead shortly after the penalty expired when Jean-Christophe Beaudin broke into the zone, and fed a charging Gianni Fairbrother. Fairbrother fired the puck past Callum Booth for his first professional goal.
Laval doubled their lead when Xavier Ouellet finished off another great pass, this time from Gabriel Bourque and had a wide open net.
The Bruins actually outshot the Rocket 9-6 in the opening 20 minutes, but the teams went into the intermission with the score 2-0.
There were no goals in the second period, but it was a spirited frame as the teams combined for 11 penalties, including two fights. Brandon Baddock won his battle with Tyler Lewington handily. Baddock was able to get his right arm free, and made good use of it. Michael Pezzetta fought Ian McKinnon after the Bruins player hit him away from the play, and the two got tangled up. McKinnon took an interference penalty on the play. Pezzetta had an assist on Fairbrother’s goal to extend his point streak.
Jakub Lauko had the Bruins best chance of the period, but McNiven made the save just over five minutes into the period.
Providence thought they had a goal with 17 seconds remaining in the period. Following a faceoff win, Jack Ahcan fired a wrist shot on net. The puck went off of McNiven and floated into the air. A Bruins player dove to bat it in with his stick, but McNiven was able to recover and dove back to stop the puck from going in. The arena spotlight turned on, but it was ruled no goal on the ice and the decision was confirmed by video review.
The Rocket took a 3-0 lead when Laurent Dauphin scored his fourth goal of the season. Dauphin pounced on the rebound after a scramble in front. His four goals are tied for the league lead, and his five points puts him in eighth spot.
Brandon Gignac added an empty net goal with under two minutes remaining to make it 4-0. It was a goal in his first game of the season as he replaced Jesse Ylönen who did not make the trip with the team.
The Rocket conclude their two-game road trip in New England with a game against the Bridgeport Islanders at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.
3rd Star - Laurent Dauphin (1 goal)
2nd Star - Brandon Baddock (1 assist, fight)
1st Star - Michael McNiven (29 saves)
Power plays: PRO 0/5, LAV 0/5
Shots: PRO 29, LAV 28
The Laval power play is 1/14 to start the season, which is 28th in the 31-team AHL. The penalty kill is 13th at 20/23. They also have a shorthanded goal.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard — Jean-Sébastien Dea — Danick Martel
Kevin Roy — Laurent Dauphin — Alex Belzile
Michael Pezzetta — Lukas Vejdemo — Gabriel Bourque
Brandon Baddock — Brandon Gignac — Jean-Christophe Beaudin
Gianni Fairbrother — Xavier Ouellet
Corey Schueneman — Louie Belpedio
Tobie Paquette-Bisson — Tory Dello
Scratches: D Carl Neill, D Terrance Amorosa, F Alexandre Fortin
Injured: D Josh Brook, F Ryan Poehling, F Joël Teasdale
Jesse Ylönen has been vaccinated twice, but is still within the 14 day period for the second dose to become effective so he did not travel to the United States with the team. He will be able to on their next trip to the US.
Fairbrother and Belpedio swapped pairings as Jean-François Houle is trying to find the right combinations on defence.
With back-to-back games, Primeau will likely get the start on Saturday.
It is still very early, but Laval looks like they will be firmly entrenched in the playoff picture all season. The top five teams get into the playoffs.