Cayden Primeau made 38 saves and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard scored two third period goals as the two Montreal Canadiens seventh-round picks helped the Laval Rocket defeat the Hershey Bears 4-2 on Sunday evening at the Giant Center in Pennsylvania.
Harvey-Pinard’s game-winning goal came on a penalty shot that was drawn shorthanded in an eventful third period. He used a backhand deke to beat Bears goaltender Zach Fucale with just under 13 minutes remaining in the period.
The goal capped off a wild three minute span in the period. With the score 2-2, following a turnover in the Laval zone, Hershey appeared to take the lead of the game. Bobby Nardella threw the puck at the net, and it went in off of Mike Vecchione’s skate and in. It was originally ruled a goal, but after video review, it was ruled that it was kicked in.
The replay was close, and there was a good argument that the puck was directed in as opposed to kicked, but the Rocket had a reprieve.
They had another reprieve around 30 seconds later. After a great passing play, Kody Clark found himself alone in front with a wide open net, but he fired the puck wide. That led to Harvey-Pinard’s penalty shot.
The third period didn’t slow down after that. Primeau came up huge in the middle part of the period. He made 16 saves in the final frame, and the Rocket were outshot 16-4 in the final 20 minutes. He made two big saves on Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, and followed that up with two more saves on Matt Moulson while shorthanded a few minutes later. A minute later, Clark would have another chance but his shot would ring off of the crossbar.
Laval took a third penalty in the third period with 4:56 remaining, but once again Primeau came up big, making a right pad save on Matt Moulson on the doorstep after he stole the puck from Louie Belpedio.
Before Hershey could pull Fucale for the extra attacker, the Rocket extended their lead. With 1:34 remaining, Brandon Gignac entered the zone, drew two defenders to him before firing a pass to Harvey-Pinard. Harvey-Pinard fired a shot while turning around past Fucale for his second goal of the game, and the insurance marker that put the game out of reach.
The game started off even for Laval as the two teams traded chances early on. Jean-Christophe Beaudin, who was promoted to the team’s top line with Jean-Sébastien Dea and Gabriel Bourque had two partial breakaways, but couldn’t capitalize. Primeau made a save on Ryan Dmowski on a breakaway of his own.
With Harvey-Pinard in the box for delay of game, veteran defenceman Cody Franson fired a point shot past Primeau to give the Bears a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
Terrance Amorosa tied the game with a point shot of his own with three minutes remaining in the period to send the team to the intermission tied 1-1.
Harvey-Pinard had an assist on the goal, making it a three-point night for him. Seven of his 12 points on the season have come in the last six games.
The shots in the first period were 10-10 as things were relatively even. The final 40 minutes saw Laval outshot 30-11.
The second period started well for the Rocket. With Gianni Fairbrother in the penalty box for elbowing, Lukas Vejdemo stole the puck at the defensive blue line to create a two-on-one rush. He made a perfect backhand pass to Bourque at the side of the net who made no mistake to give Laval a 2-1 lead.
Less than four minutes later, Alex Alexeyev tied the game when he drove the offensive zone down the left wing and fired a perfect shot over Primeau’s shoulder from in close.
The two teams traded chances in the final seconds of the period, but it remained tied 2-2, setting up the thrilling final period.
The Rocket have a full week of practice before hosting the Providence Bruins at Place Bell on Friday night, followed by their last game before the Christmas break on Saturday night in Syracuse.
Alexandre Fortin and Carl Neill were scratched as Cameron Hillis and Gianni Fairbrother entered the lineup. It was Fairbrother’s first game since suffering an injury November 17.
Primeau made his sixth straight start, the longest such stretch in his professional career. He is 4-1-1 in those six games.
The Rocket’s 4-1-1 stretch to start December sees them get into the final playoff spot in the North Division. They are fifth by points percentage, but third in points as other teams have more games remaining. As teams in the division have different numbers of games as the AHL transitions its schedule to be more uniform, the playoff seeding will be done by points percentage.