Byron Froese fired a turn-around shot from the goal line that hit off of Michael McNiven and banked into the net with 3:13 remaining in the game that turned out to be the difference as the Stockton Heat defeated the Laval Rocket 3-1 at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
It was Laval’s first regulation loss in 13 games, dating back to March 12.
The Rocket pulled McNiven with 1:38 remaining in the game to get the extra attacker but Eetu Tuulola scored into the empty net 21 seconds later.
It prevented Laval from sweeping the seven-game season series with Stockton.
The bad goal was unfortunate for McNiven, who kept his team in the game especially early on in the game. He made 24 saves.
Joël Bouchard called the goal a mistake after the game, and said the team will move on and look forward to their trip in Toronto as opposed to looking back at the loss.
After limiting the Heat to one shot on goal in the first period of their game on Sunday, the Rocket had an uncharacteristic sloppy start in this one. Within the first seven minutes, Laval had a delay of game penalty, a too many players penalty, and a tripping penalty.
The three power plays allowed the Heat to take advantage, outshooting Laval 7-1 through the opening nine minutes of the game.
The Rocket showed some of their frustration when Gustav Olofsson took exception to a hard hit by Glenn Gawdin on Yannick Veilleux and the two went off for fighting.
Luckily for the Rocket, they were able to kill all three penalties as Michael McNiven was strong for the team, making his second consecutive start. Bouchard talked to the team during the first commercial break, and the tide turned afterwards.
The best Laval chance came with under seven minutes remaining in the first period when Yannick Veilleux put a backhand from the slot wide of the net.
Later in the period, that line struck again for a couple of chances during a shift, but it also ended with a penalty when Jordan Weal went off for tripping for the fourth straight Laval penalty. Despite being shorthanded for eight minutes in the opening frame, Laval closed the gap in shots to 11-6 by the end of the period.
Laval took the lead eight minutes into the second period when Veilleux tipped in a Weal shot from the point. It was Veilleux’s seventh goal of the season, and he had a goal in each of the three games against he Heat on this homestand.
C'est un 3e match consécutif, tous contre Stockton, avec un but pour Yannick Veilleux.— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) April 7, 2021
It's a 3rd straight game, all against Stockton, with a goal for Yannick Veilleux. #GoRocket pic.twitter.com/o9oUFUrdel
McNiven’s best save of the night came on Stockton’s fifth straight power play shortly after Laval took the lead. Heat passing on a three-on-two left Matthew Phillips alone in the slot, but the Rocket goaltender made the save.
With less than three minutes remaining in the second period, the Heat tied the game. Adam Ruzicka pounced on a loose puck and got a breakaway and beat McNiven over the pad in close for his 10th goal of the season.
The Rocket came out strong in the third period. The line of Ryan Poehling, Joseph Blandisi, and Joël Teasdale carried the play into the Stockton zone and got several scoring chances but couldn’t beat Garret Sparks. Sparks made 28 saves in the win.
With less than 12 minutes remaining in the third period, the Rocket finally got their first power play of the game when Teasdale was elbowed in the face as he beat out an icing call behind the Heat net. Laval got some scoring chances but were not able to convert with the advantage.
With Otto Leskinen with the Canadiens taxi squad, Jacob Leguerrier made his AHL debut tonight. He would be playing in the OHL, but since their season hasn’t started has been practicing with the Rocket waiting for this opportunity.
The forward lines were the same as they were on Sunday, as were the goaltenders. McNiven and Vasili Demchenko will split the two games in Toronto with Cayden Primeau with the Canadiens. Cole Caufield will be making his AHL debut on Friday in Toronto. The game will be broadcast on RDS.