After a hot first two games, the Laval Rocket were finally tripped up on Tuesday night by the Belleville Senators. It was a game that Laval had a firm grip on throughout, but some mental lapses late in the third period cost them a third consecutive victory as they fell 4-1.
On Friday night, the Rocket had a chance to rebound after that defeat, and that came with a few lineup changes from Joël Bouchard. Cale Fleury was out with a minor injury, allowing draft selection Gianni Fairbrother to play his first game in the AHL alongside Xavier Ouellet. Lukas Vejdemo took Joseph Blandisi’s spot on the second while Jake Lucchini and Michael Pezzetta sat in favour of Kevin Lynch and Brandon Baddock. Cayden Primeau got the nod in goal while he was backed up by Michael McNiven once more.
It was an extremely quick start for the Rocket as they got on the board in under two minutes. Jesse Ylönen slid a pass to Fairbrother, who uncorked a massive shot that just buzzed the Sens’ net. The puck rebounded around the net right to Ryan Poehling who easily fired it into the empty side of the net as Joey Daccord was caught out of position.
Gianni Fairbrother gets his first professional point when Ryan Poehling puts home the rebound!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 20, 2021
1-0 Rocket! pic.twitter.com/0Hm5i6STKP
Poehling did set up another goal shortly after his opening one, unfortunately it was for Belleville instead of Laval. He worked deep in the defensive zone, and turned to fire a pass to Baddock across the front of the Rocket’s goal, but it landed on the stick of Cody Goloubef, and the veteran defender easily buried his shot to tie the game.
The tie didn’t last for long as Lukas Vejdemo’s individual effort helped to put Laval back into the lead. He collected a loose puck in the neutral zone and sped toward the offensive end immediately, chipping a puck by the defence at the blue line. He slipped the attempted hip-check to pick up his dump-in, and threw it to the front of the net where Laurent Dauphin redirected it past Daccord for his second goal of the season.
Lukas Vejdemo speeds by the Sens D and sets up Laurent Dauphin for his second goal of the year pic.twitter.com/wouRjNAqCU— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 20, 2021
The Rocket did get into a spot of penalty trouble after their second goal, with Baddock sitting for high-sticking. The penalty-killers managed to kill off the two-minute minor without much issue, but were called into action a few minutes later when Michael Frolik was called for a hold. Again it was the stalwart Laval defence holding strong as it killed a 10th consecutive penalty against the Senators and headed into the first intermission with a one-goal lead.
The second period’ start wasn’t quite as smooth as the first’s, as Ouellet and Fairbrother weren’t able to clear the zone without icing the puck for nearly two minutes. However, the relentless hustle of Rafael Harvey-Pinard made up for it as he potted his second goal of the season with just over six minutes gone. Jordan Weal chipped the puck toward the net and Harvey-Pinard drove hard after it, dragging Joey Daccord with him. As he threw a shot to the front it hit a Senator skate and slowly trickled into the empty net.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard gets a lucky bounce off a defender's skate and makes it 3-1 Laval! pic.twitter.com/uy02w5guBq— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 20, 2021
Laval then had a chance to put the game in a stranglehold as the Senators took back-to-back penalties, giving the Rocket a huge five-on-three opportunity. The Rocket continued their onslaught, but Daccord held the fort against the two-man advantage to keep the Laval lead at just two goals as the game passed the midpoint.
Even without the power play, the Rocket kept the pressure applied as the period continued, and Belleville had no answer of any sort. In fact, their best chance came with Laval on a late power play. Alex Formenton picked up the puck in the Senators’ zone and quickly took off towards the Rocket net, leaving Weal scrambling to cover. Formenton tried to tuck his shot around the pad of Primeau, but the Rocket netminder stood tall to ensure Laval kept their two-goal lead in the intermission.
The third period was more like the first, as the Rocket tallied a power-play goal just 15 seconds in. Ylönen blew past a Senators penalty-killer, worked the puck below the goal line, then fired a pass to Corey Schueneman in the slot. The Rocket defenceman held the puck for a split-second before rifling a shot by Daccord and pushing the lead to three goals.
Jesse Ylönen sets up Corey Schueneman for his first Rocket goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 20, 2021
4-1 Laval! pic.twitter.com/DjNW5n3rwm
The Rocket did head back to the penalty kill after Arsen Khisamutdinov was called for a slash, and they attempted to kill their 11th straight penalty. They got a huge boost as their penalty-killers worked the puck into the Senators zone, with Otto Leskinen cutting through the slot to fire off a backhand shot. His rebound fell right in front of Harvey-Pinard, who fired home his second goal of the game to push the lead to four goals with just under 12 minutes to play.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard gets his second of the game thanks to some great work by Otto Leskinen shorthanded. pic.twitter.com/M2T5f9Ye2N— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 20, 2021
The Rocket’s penalty-kill streak came to an end as a scramble around the net saw the puck fall to the stick of Mark Kastelic, who squeezed his shot past a diving Primeau to cut the Rocket lead back down to three goals.
It looked like Laval were going to ride the game out as they controlled the puck in the closing minutes. As Harvey-Pinard worked the puck away from the Sens, net he took a high hit that earned Joseph LaBate a two-minute minor and gave Laval a power play. The man advantage was short-lived as Lukas Vejdemo was called for a trip, but the Rocket had no issues seeing out the game at four-on-four.
Final Score: Laval 5, Belleville 2
The Rocket are now off until Monday night when they open a four-game series against Cole Perfetti and the Manitoba Moose.
- Rafaël Harvey-Pinard (2G)
- Ryan Poehling (1G, 1A)
- Jesse Ylönen (2A)