The Laval Rocket used four second period goals to lead the way to their second straight 5-1 win over the Belleville Senators on Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre.
Yannick Veilleux scored twice, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard scored his first professional goal, and Jordan Weal had two assists as that line led the way.
It was a balanced attack for Laval, as Lukas Vejdemo had a goal and an assist, Gustav Olofsson had two assists, and Laurent Dauphin also scored for Laval.
Michael McNiven got the start in the second half of back-to-back games and made 25 saves in the win. McNiven actually extended his AHL winning streak to five games, over three seasons. He won all three games he played last season, and won his final start in 2018-19.
McNiven was instrumental early on for the Rocket as the Senators came out strong in the game’s opening minutes. He made several big saves to keep the game at 0-0, including three saves on the Senators power play in the second half of the period. In all, he made 10 saves in the opening frame.
After the kill, the Rocket took the lead when a Gustav Olofsson point shot was tipped by Brandon Baddock, and the rebound was put in by Dauphin.
Laurent Dauphin opened the scoring for the Rocket, putting the loose puck past Kevin Mandolese. pic.twitter.com/IrYs1eK7Jk— Jared Book (@jaredbook) February 13, 2021
Baddock was making his Rocket debut against his former team, replacing Ryan Poehling. Poehling had a minor injury in Friday’s game, and the quick turnaround between games limited the evaluation period and they decided to play it safe with the youngster.
The lead was short lived. Just over a minute later, with 49.4 seconds remaining in the first period, the Senators tied the game. Parker Kelly got a pass and wire a wrist shot past McNiven.
That was as close as Belleville would get.
Any thoughts of the last minute goal carrying momentum into the second period were wiped out in the opening minute of the second. Fifty seconds into the period, Ridly Greig took a high sticking penalty to put the Rocket on the power play.
Just seven seconds later, Jordan Weal found Yannick Veilleux at the side of the net and Veilleux took the puck in front and beat Belleville goaltender Kevin Mandolese, a Montreal native making his first professional start.
Yannick Veilleux scores his first goal of the season on the power play to give the Rocket a 2-1 lead in the opening minute of the second.— Jared Book (@jaredbook) February 13, 2021
Jordan Weal with his second PP assist in as many games. pic.twitter.com/y8MstMa710
It was the first of four goals they scored in the period as they took the game over.
“I thought [Saturday] was a different kind of game,” said Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard. “We really took over the game in the second period with our attitude, our relentlessness and especially the guys executing what we asked between periods. It’s really nice for coaches when you make adjustments and the guys not only understand it but buy in and do it.”
“We saw it right away, we got breakaways from it, we got two-on-ones, we got offence and we overwhelmed them, we got a power play. We executed the play that was planned on the power play. All the details we worked on the last three weeks I thought really paid off. It’s when you’re challenged that you need to have a plan. When things don’t go well, or you have adversity because I have to hand it to Belleville, they came out hard in the first period. I thought we adjusted really well and credit to the guys. They stuck with it.”
Later in the period, Veilleux’s second goal of the game made it 3-1 as he converted a great pass from Weal. The two players have chemistry and created a ton of offence through the first two games of the season.
Yannick Veilleux takes the Jordan Weal pass and it's 3-1 Laval. Veilleux's second of the game. pic.twitter.com/ZinlJx49yy— Jared Book (@jaredbook) February 13, 2021
A few minutes after that goal, Olofsson found Lukas Vejdemo at the side of the net who made no mistake to beat Mandolese. It was Vejdemo’s second goal of the season and he has scored in his last three games at the Bell Centre. In addition to the first two games of the AHL season, he scored his first NHL goal in the Canadiens’ final home game of the 2019-20 season.
Lukas Vejdemo finishes the Cale Fleury pass to make it 4-1 Laval.— Jared Book (@jaredbook) February 13, 2021
Vejdemo has scored in his last three games at the Bell Centre dating back to the final NHL game of the 2019-20 season. pic.twitter.com/QYsrlLGq9o
The scoring continued with Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. He got off the bench into a ton of empty space in the offensive zone. Olofsson saw him coming into the play and gave him the puck with plenty of time with a shot to beat Mandolese.
First career professional goal by Rafaël Harvey-Pinard! 5-1 Rocket. pic.twitter.com/EdQklfQcVz— Jared Book (@jaredbook) February 13, 2021
The three goals for Laval were scored in 6:23.
Harvey-Pinard got a promotion to the line with Weal and Veilleux because of the injury to Alex Belzile, who missed his second straight game with a minor injury suffered in practice. He fit right in and created several chances over the weekend.
“I think it went well. I was happy with my two games,” Harvey-Pinard said. “They were my first two games in pro hockey. I was just trying to keep things simple... I created turnovers. I am satisfied with what I did but I could still give more.”
With a four-goal lead going into the third period, the Rocket continued to push hard. Much like the NHL schedule, mini series will be the norm in the schedule. This was the second of four straight games the Rocket will play against Belleville. They outshot Belleville 14-5 in the final 20 minutes with almost all of it played five-on-five.
“That’s what we talked about between the second and third,” said Veilleux. “We’re playing them again twice next week so we couldn’t give them hope or anything. It was really about pushing the pace again in the third.”
It was a very positive start to the season for the Rocket, with two straight 5-1 wins.
“So far this weekend as a group we’ve played great, offensively and defensively,” said McNiven. “We’re going to have a good season this year as long as we keep that enthusiasm and that attitude”
The only change from Friday was Brandon Baddock in for Poehling. As a result, Laurent Dauphin moved from wing to centre.
McNiven got the start after Primeau played the opener.
Poehling, Belzile, and Kaiden Guhle are nursing minor injuries and will be evaluated day-to-day. As for the rest of the players on the outside looking in, Bouchard mentioned that he wanted to get the veterans some mileage and give the players who were a major part of their run last season in the lineup to start the year. He expects to start putting some of the other youngsters into the lineup over the next few games.
Not much to discuss so far. Toronto and Manitoba start their season with back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday. Stockton only gets underway on February 21.