The Laval Rocket don’t have much more to play for. They clinched the division title last week. There are no playoffs to prepare for. They lost two games in a row heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Marlies, and were trying to avoid losing a third straight for the first time all season.
They came out with one of their best starts of the season, and were mostly in cruise control for most of their 4-2 victory over the Marlies at Coca Cola Coliseum.
The Rocket picked up where they finished their last game against the Marlies. After getting 60 shots in their overtime loss in their last meeting, they outshot Toronto 20-6 in the first period. More importantly, they were able to take a 2-0 lead.
After two power plays that Laval couldn’t convert on, they finally broke through in the final few minutes. With 3:26 remaining, Jesse Ylönen picked the puck up behind the net and found Rafaël Harvey-Pinard in the slot who made no mistake for his eighth goal of the season.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard a ouvert la marque avec un but en direct de son bureau grâce à une belle passe de Jesse Ylönen.— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) May 11, 2021
What a dish from Jesse Ylönen who knows where to find Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. #gorocket pic.twitter.com/dZ2ltmg1l4
Less than two minutes later, they doubled their advantage. After a Cale Fleury check in the defensive zone, the Rocket immediately took the puck up ice. Laurent Dauphin found Yannick Veilleux who fired a shot past Veini Vehvilainen for his 12th goal of the season.
Cale Fleury a souligné son retour au jeu avec une mise en échec monstre qui a mené au but de Yannick Veilleux.— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) May 11, 2021
It looks like Cale Fleury was eager to come back and hit. This booming one led to Yannick Veilleux's goal! #GoRocket pic.twitter.com/z6ggqpM8NO
Late in the period, tempers would boil over. After Xavier Ouellet took exception to a Stefan Noesen high stick in the corner, the two would drop the gloves. In addition to five minutes each for fighting, Noesen had an extra two minutes for the initial high stick.
Early in the second period, Laval extended their lead again. After their third power play didn’t result in a goal, they struck at even strength. Jordan Weal threw the puck on net, and after it was stopped by Vehvilainen, the rebound went into the slot. Ylönen pounced on the loose puck and snuck the puck under the goaltender.
Toute une pièce de jeu de Lukas Vejdemo, mais Lucchini se bute encore à un gardien des Marlies.— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) May 12, 2021
What a nice play from Vejdemo but once again, Lucchini is frustrated by a Marlies goalie. #GoRocket pic.twitter.com/48bFNSKXFg
The Rocket dominated the first part of the game, and the Marlies struggled to get any shots through the opening minutes of the second period. Toronto’s first shot of the period came with 8:33 remaining.
From then on, however, they kept pushing. Laval was content to let the Marlies get some offence, even if they weren’t getting many chances. When they did get chances through the first 40 minutes, Vasili Demchenko was there to make the saves. He ended up making 25 saves for his third win in four starts this season.
The Marlies finally got on the board in the third period. With just under eight minutes remaining, Rich Clune tipped a Scott Pooley shot right in Demchenko’s kitchen to make it 3-1.
Exactly five minutes later, the lead would be cut to one. After a faceoff in the Rocket zone, the puck bounced around and found Nic Petan alone in front of the net. He made no mistake to beat Demchenko.
That was as close as Toronto would come. After they pulled Vehvilainen, they had possession but not really threaten Demchenko. In the final minute, Laurent Dauphin scored his fifth of the year in the empty net to seal the win. Laval ended up with 40 shots on the night.
The two teams will play again on Wednesday afternoon. It will be the second of five straight games between the two teams. After Wednesday’s game, they will play in Montreal on Friday, Saturday, and Monday to finish the regular season.
Cale Fleury returned for his first game since April 2. There were concerns that his injury would be season-ending, but he managed to recover in time for the final five games.
Josh Brook played the full game at forward. With so many skilled forwards out, Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said that Brook had the most skill from the defencemen on the roster and wanted him to bring that to his team.
Arsen Khisamutdinov was the forward to sit out. Liam Hawel left the game with an injury and did not return.
Michael McNiven was the backup on Tuesday and will start Wednesday’s game. Terrance Amorosa sat out with Fleury’s return to the lineup.