For arguably the first time all season, the Laval Rocket are mired in a bit of a slump, having dropped three out of their previous four games entering Friday night. They’ve played extremely well during that stretch, an impressive feat given the amount of players that were missing from their lineup since the beginning of the month. Last night, he team welcomed Xavier Ouellet, Alex Belzile, Cayden Primeau, and Jesse Ylönen back to the lineup against the Toronto Marlies.
This allowed Joël Bouchard a chance to ice a full lineup, with the exception of Josh Brook remaining on the wing due to his strong play there the last few games. Primeau got the nod as the starter after a tough showing in his last two NHL starts with the Canadiens.
The Rocket got off to a quick start, and Jordan Weal continued to be a creative force on the ice for the team as he fed a perfect leading pass to Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. The rookie winger took the pass and broke in alone, but his shot pinged off the far post and away from Michael Hutchinson.
The Marlies then trekked down the ice, and Pavel Gogolev left a puck for Justin Brazeau, which the gargantuan forward snapped off the back bar to put Toronto up by a goal early.
They doubled their lead a few minutes later, with Gogolev again acting as the catalyst. He wove through the Rocket zone and fired a cross-zone feed to Kalle Kossila, who snapped his shot over the shoulder of Primeau and made it a two-goal game.
Laval’s fourth line helped bring the Rocket back to life a bit, as their heavy pressure on Toronto’s defence drew a hooking call. Corey Schueneman rang another shot off the iron, but again it bounced away harmlessly as the Marlies touched up. The Laval man advantage didn’t do much to put pressure on Toronto, and came away without a goal on the game’s first power play.
A late rush from Laurent Dauphin yielded the Rocket’s best chance at the end of the period, but Hutchinson managed to keep the puck out as he smothered it amidst a pile of sticks and skates. Laval headed into the intermission playing well, but needing a strong second period to cut into the Toronto lead.
The team came out heavy, piling up a big shot advantage in the opening minutes, and keeping Toronto pinned mostly in their defensive zone as Laval swarmed all over every loose puck. Eventually the pressure paid off as the Rocket finally found the back of the net.
Alex Belzile drew a mass of Toronto defenders in the corner, and as he fell to the ice he slid a pass to Yannick Veilleux in the faceoff circle. Veilleux continued his run against the Marlies and wired his 14th goal of the year past Hutchinson to get Laval on the board.
Yannick Veilleux continues to torch the Marlies, his 8th goal against them this year, and 14th overall. pic.twitter.com/SZM6ED1Daq— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) May 15, 2021
The Rocket attack didn’t relent from there, as they pushed their shot advantage to 13-0 as the period crossed its halfway point. The pressure yielded another goal, this time thanks to the hard work of Dauphin. The centre worked the puck along the blue line, faking a slapshot to open a better shooting lane for himself. He stepped into his wristshot, and on the way to the net Alex Belzile caught enough of the puck to deflect it behind Hutchinson and tie the game.
Laurent Dauphin with the pump-fake and his shot gets directed home by Alex Belzile!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) May 15, 2021
2-2 at the Bell Centre pic.twitter.com/hUr8kyyGGc
It looked like the sides were set to head into the intermission tied at two goals apiece, but a breakdown in the defensive zone allowed the Marlies to grab the lead on just their fourth shot of the period. Stefan Noesen’s shot was saved by Primeau, but Ouellet couldn’t get across to stop Gogolev from flicking the backhand shot into the back of the net.
Once again, Laval headed into the second intermission needing a strong third period to grab any points from the Marlies.
They had to start the final period down Weal, who had to serve the rest of a 10-minute misconduct, and Veilleux who was getting treatment after getting hacked on the wrist by Hutchinson.
For much of the third period, the Rocket pushed and the Marlies countered, but once the Rocket managed to establish a strong offensive-zone presence they refused to leave. As the physicality picked up, Belzile suckered Rosen into taking a cross-checking penalty, and created a late power play for Laval.
Despite the Rocket again dominating the end of the game, they couldn’t find an equalizing goal as they attacked with Primeau on the bench for the extra attacker. By the end of the game Laval had doubled up Toronto’s shots, but fell by a goal.
Final Score: Toronto 3, Laval 2
These teams have two games left in their five-game set, including their next meeting Saturday at 3:00 PM EDT. Michael McNiven is the expected starter, and Cale Fleury should be slotting back in on defence as well after getting a rest.
- Pavel Gogolev (1G, 2A)
- Laurent Dauphin (2A)
- Alex Belzile (1G, 1A)