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Rocket @ Stars recap & highlights: Laval gets blown out in return to action

Not the start the Rocket wanted after a week off.

Club de Hockey Canadien

The Laval Rocket enjoyed just over a week off. They had last played on January 19th against the Utica Comets, a game they won thanks in part to a two-goal effort from Jesse Ylönen. The club was supposed to play a two-game series against the Belleville Senators over the previous weekend, but the games were postponed due to COVID-related issues.

Laval continued to receive reinforcements en masse as Joël Teasdale and Xavier Ouellet both came off the injured list and into the Rocket lineup. Also back in the defensive formation was Corey Schueneman who was sent down from the NHL earlier this week, returning the Rocket to nearly full strength. In net Kevin Poulin had his fourth straight start, unsurprising given his status as the only contracted goalie left on the team.

The Rocket were handed a golden chance in the opening minutes as Jeremy Grégoire was called for a trip, putting Laval on the game’s first power play just over three minutes into the contest. They almost didn’t need the power play as their extra-attacker advantage nearly netted them a goal as they hemmed Texas into their own end. Anton Khudobin made a few big saves, and had to do the same on the actual power play to keep Laval off the board in the early going.

The Stars took the killed penalty as a momentum booster, pushing the Rocket back and forcing Poulin to be on his toes as Texas stormed the zone repeatedly. Laval did well to handle that pressure, and turned it into the opening goal of the game.

Schueneman left a pass off for Tory Dello, and the veteran defender found a small seam to feed his shot through, beating Khudobin for his first goal of the season to give Laval a lead with roughly half the first period played.

Laval had a chance to double its advantage as Curtis McKenzie was sent to the box for kneeing Gianni Fairbrother, putting the Rocket back on the power play with five minutes left to play in the first period. The passing on the Rocket power play remained crisp, and the only reason the score wasn’t pushed to 2-0 was a massive glove save by Khudobin to deny Ylönen in the slot.

The Rocket held that one-goal lead heading into the first break, and looked like the far better team after the opening 20 minutes.

The second period was all Laval to start, as the visitors hammered the Stars with chances for the opening four minutes, but a Gabriel Bourque penalty brought that to a screeching halt, allowing Texas a chance to tie the game. The Stars did just that as Joel L’Esperance attempted a pass, but a sprawling Tory Dello blocked it right into his own net to get Texas on the board.

The penalties again became an issue with Teasdale being sent to the box for boarding. It took just 10 seconds for the Stars to grab the lead as Anthony Louis fired a shot through traffic that fooled Poulin to make it a 2-1 game with just over six minutes played.

For good measure, the Stars tacked on another goal from Louis to make it 3-1 game and totally flip the pressure that Laval had started the period with. With the Rocket scrambling, the Stars looked to have made it 4-1, but McKenzie had fallen directly onto Poulin so the goal was waved off immediately for interference.

It didn’t matter as the Stars potted a fourth goal just a few minutes later. A puck was shot in around the net, and with the Rocket failing to clear it away from goal, Grégoire poked it under Poulin’s pad and gave Texas a commanding lead toward the end of the second period. Laval drew a late power play, but every look they set up either didn’t trouble Khudobin or was blocked on its way to the net leaving the Rocket trailing by three goals heading into the third.

Things didn’t get much better to start the final period for Laval either, as Nick Caamano bullied his way around Schueneman. The Texas forward cut toward the net on the Rocket defender, and once he had a bit of space, roofed a shot far-side on Poulin to push the game into blowout territory.

A brilliant partial break by Ty Dellandrea made it a five-goal Stars lead, and that was all she wrote for Kevin Poulin after two periods and change.

With the game now completely one-sided, things went entirely off the rails as Grégoire attacked Fairbrother after the whistle, which brought Danick Martel to his aid. Both Grégoire and Martel were sent to an early shower for their altercation. Then, after a Rocket power play, Brandon Baddock missed a huge hit and for his trouble was jumped from behind by Alex Petrovic, which also sent both players to the locker room.

The game ended with one final bit of salt in the wound as Ylönen needed help to get off the ice favouring his right leg.

Final Score: Texas 6, Laval 1

The Rocket will have to forget this game in a hurry as they have a rematch with the Stars on Saturday night at 8:00 PM ET.