At last, a long, strange season came to an end on perhaps the strangest note possible for the Laval Rocket. Carey Price was starting the first part of the game for Joël Bouchard’s club, while Brendan Gallagher slotted in on the second line with Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Jordan Weal. Both players were in the AHL on conditioning stints ahead of the Canadiens’ first round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Rocket were happy to provide Price with plenty of early action, as Alex Belzile was called for tripping 59 seconds in, putting Laval on an early penalty kill. The Rocket penalty killers fought off two-thirds of Belzile’s minor before a tic-tac-toe passing landed on the stick of Bobby McMann who scored.
The Marlies doubled their lead on their next shot on goal. Jeremy McKenna created a turnover behind the Laval net and he found Stefan Noesen in front of the net, who put a backhand past Price.
The two goals in 1:46 would be all that the Marlies would get past Price, who made 13 saves in his 40 minutes of work. Throughout the game’s next 45 minutes, the Rocket would get 39 shots on Michael Hutchinson, but were unable to solve the Marlies’ goaltender.
Brendan Gallagher provided a boost for the Rocket throughout the game, but the spark he brought wasn’t enough to lift a Laval forward group that has been overworked over the last part of the season. Gallagher had a four-minute penalty for high sticking, and had two shots on goal. Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard estimated that Gallagher played around 17 minutes.
The Canadiens’ forward noted that he didn’t leave the ice for the final four minutes and joked that it was the most he had played since pee wee. The team pulled Primeau and pushed to get back into the game.
Gallagher created some room for Jordan Weal, who had a team-high eight shots on goal as he tried to catch Ryan Poehling for the Rocket team scoring lead. Jake Lucchini had five shots, while Yannick Veilleux, Jesse Ylönen, and Xavier Ouellet had four a piece.
Price was originally supposed to play 30 minutes in the game. However, circumstances saw him finish the second period. He only faced a handful of shots when the first whistle after the 10-minute mark of the period came, and it was an icing. At the first commercial break, Cayden Primeau started to make his way on the ice, but Laval had just taken a penalty and Price decided to stay in for the rest of the period.
Primeau played the third period and saved both shots that he faced.
After the game, Bouchard said that he would stick around with Daniel Jacob and work with the extra players who will be recalled by the Montreal Canadiens for the post-season. He expects around seven or eight players and they will skate every few days in case they are needed by the NHL team.
The Rocket finish their fourth season with a 23-9-4 record. Their .694 points percentage is good enough for second in the AHL, behind the Hershey Bears at .758. Their 50 points is tied with Hershey, who has played three fewer games.
Gallagher drew in for Josh Brook, who left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury. Arsen Khisamutdinov took warmup, but was not dressed for the game.
The Marlies and Belleville Senators will finish their seasons with two games, Wednesday and Thursday.