On a tumultuous Wednesday that saw the Laval Rocket promote assistant coach Alex Burrows to the NHL team, the Rocket had to focus on their game against the Manitoba Moose. Their previous meeting saw the Rocket hammer Mikhail Berdin with 41 shots, but still lose the game on an overtime power-play goal by Ville Heinola.
After a physical contest on Monday, head coach Joël Bouchard opted for a heavier lineup, inserting Michael Pezzetta and Brandon Baddock on the fourth line, while Joël Teasdale drew in for Arsen Khisamutdinov. The defensive group remained the same, with Kaiden Guhle and Gianni Fairbrother keeping their spots for the time being, while Josh Brook was a healthy scratch. In net Bouchard turned to Charlie Lindgren, who was starting his first game since March 7 and was in Laval after his season-long stay on the Montreal Canadiens’ taxi squad.
While the Moose were the ones applying some early pressure on Lindgren and the Rocket, it was Laval that once again managed to open the scoring. A timely pokecheck in the defensive zone pushed the puck through a wide open neutral zone and allowed Laval to begin their counter-attack. Otto Leskinen touched the puck over to Baddock, who used his pugilistic hands for deking through the Moose defence and sniped one past Berdin for his first goal of the year.
What a deke and snipe by...— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 25, 2021
*Checks the scoresheet*
Brandon Baddock?! pic.twitter.com/SYOpZKU9OA
The Rocket’s lack of discipline from their Monday clash then came back with a vengeance as they took a pair of a penalties in short order. First it was Xavier Ouellet having to sit for interference, and after a strong kill the team had to immediately kill another as Jordan Weal was called for a trip. The penalty-killers were more than up to the task, as they generated more pressure on Berdin than the Moose did on Lindgren.
Even with Laval pushing hard and keeping the Moose hemmed in their own zone, a piece of missed coverage by Gustav Olofsson allowed Manitoba to tie the game up. Olofsson left his spot down low, allowing Nicholas Jones plenty of space to put home a Bobby Lynch rebound for his first goal of the year.
The Rocket were lucky to not be trailing shortly after that goal as a four-on-one Moose attack resulted in a shot off the goal post behind Lindgren that deflected harmlessly away. The odd-man rush clanging off the iron snapped Laval back into the game, and while they didn’t add another goal, they re-established control of the game heading into the first intermission.
The strong end to the first period carried over into the second as the Rocket rolled their lines and kept the Moose pinned back in their own zone with relative ease. A pair of close calls by Jesse Ylönen and Leskinen just went wide of the net, keeping the game tied in the early minutes.
Those opening shifts defined the period, as Laval pressed forward at every juncture, never allowing Manitoba to even get set to counter. Another shot from Corey Schueneman also rang off the post, denying the Rocket yet another chance to take the lead.
Even with a lopsided shot advantage, the Moose were held in it once more by a stellar performance by Berdin. However, with under a minute left in the period, Ylönen was called for a hold, giving Manitoba a brief power play, and thanks to the Rocket penalty-killers it also carried over to the start of the third.
With fresh ice under their skates, it took the Moose just 32 seconds into the final period to cash in on their power-play chance. Ouellet left his partner on an island as he attempted to close in on the puck-carrier, but in doing so left Kristian Reichel wide open at the side of the net. Tyler Graovac also saw this, easily sliding a pass across the crease, and Reichel easily blew his shot by Lindgren to put Manitoba up by a goal.
The discipline issue reared its head again as Baddock took a late shot on Berdin just after the officials had blown the play offside. While Lindgren came up with one massive save on Reichel, he couldn’t create the same magic on a cross-crease one-timer by Nathan Todd.
The Rocket didn’t let a two-goal deficit derail their offensive efforts, and less than 40 seconds after the Manitoba goal, they drew one right back. Yannick Veilleux fed a pass up to Ylönen, who in turn pulled the puck around a sprawling defender then rifled a shot to the far corner of the net for his first North American professional goal.
Jesse Ylönen makes his first North American goal one to remember with a wicked toe drag and snipe. pic.twitter.com/kuJ81H9Ct1— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 25, 2021
As much as the Rocket continued to control the flow of play, they failed to find another goal in the final minutes. Berdin stood tall, and with Lindgren on the bench the Moose buried the empty-net goal to seal the loss for Laval.
Final Score: Manitoba 4, Laval 2
Thursday is an off-day for the Rocket before they face the Moose on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. It is expected that Lindgren and Cayden Primeau will split the net for the remaining two games.
- Mikhail Berdin (29 Saves, Win)
- Nathan Todd (2 G)
- Jesse Ylönen (1 G)