The Laval Rocket had a frantic attempt at a comeback fall just short as they lost 2-1 to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Gabriel Bourque scored his fourth goal in as many games to start the season with 3:03 remaining on a six-on-four advantage, but that was as close as the Rocket would come. Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle pulled goaltender Cayden Primeau for the extra attacker with over two minutes remaining, but Laval just couldn’t get the tying goal past Penguins goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
The shots were 10-3 Laval in the third period of play.
The Penguins opened the scoring on the power play. Alex Nylander took the puck, walked in to the right circle and launched a perfect shot through traffic and past Primeau, just over seven minutes into the game.
The Rocket’s best chance of the first period came when William Trudeau sent a pass to the right side of the net, but Jesse Ylönen was unable to get a stick on it to direct it towards goal.
Nathan Legare doubled the Penguins lead shortly after when he took a lead pass from Samuel Houde, and fired a shot off the post and in past Primeau to make it 2-0.
Sam Houde absorbs a hit, steals a puck inside the WBS defensive zone blue line and sends Nathan Legare off to the races.— Tony Androckitis* (@TonyAndrock) October 21, 2022
Legare goes far side post and in to extend #WBSPens lead to 2-0 with 6:24 left in the 1st on Legare's first of the season. @InsideAHLHockey pic.twitter.com/RAFw65OFxD
Houde was a Montreal Canadiens draft pick, but went unsigned and started his professional career last year in the ECHL.
Laval took three penalties in the first period, and other than the Nylander goal, were able to come away unscathed, despite being outshot in the opening frame 11-6. Primeau made several big saves throughout the game to keep it close, and made 21 saves overall.
The Rocket got their first power play early in the second period, but were unable to get much on the Penguins. Their best chance came just at the end of the penalty, when Justin Barron tried to find Alex Belzile at the side of the net, but Tokarski made the save.
It was a tight defensive battle, with strong play at both sides, but Laval did get some opportunities including a pair of chances in the slot from Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Nate Schnarr, as well as a Brandon Gignac rush down the wing, but were unable to capitalize.
The third period started with Laval having a carryover power play, but they did not get anything too dangerous on Tokarski.
The defence continued to play well, with William Trudeau making several nice plays including a great play to block a pass on a two-on-one Penguins rush.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s best opportunity to open up a 3-0 lead came when former Rocket captain Xavier Ouellet’s point shot made it through traffic, and rolled along the line behind Primeau. The puck was cleared before it crossed the line, keeping the Laval deficit to two.
Laval went back on the power play with 4:54 remaining after Penguins defenceman Ty Smith cleared the puck over the glass. On the ensuing power play, Mattias Norlinder got the puck to Xavier Simoneau, who passed it to Bourque alone in front for the tap in.
The Rocket continued to push for the tying goal, and their best chance came when a loose puck after a rebound came back to Ylönen, but he was unable to get his shot through a sea of players in front of the net.
Laval continues their road trip on Saturday night when they face off against the Bridgeport Islanders.
With Mitchell Stephens back from a two-game suspension, Pierrick Dubé was taken out of the lineup. Stephens returned to his spot on the top line with Ylönen and Harvey-Pinard, moving Alex Belzile back to wing.