Anthony Richard scored two goals, including the goal that saw a record number of teddy bears fall from the sky, as the Laval Rocket won a high-scoring game 7-4 over the Belleville Senators on Saturday evening at Place Bell.
Saturday’s game was the team’s teddy bear toss game, where fans throw stuffed animals onto the ice after the team’s first goal of the game. The toys are then collected and donated to 30 different foundations and initiatives working with families and children.
Just 23 seconds into the game. something else was thrown. Senators forward Scott Sabourin instigated a fight with Rocket John Parker-Jones, who was playing in his first career AHL game, and was on his first career AHL shift. Sabourin received an extra two minutes for instigating and a 10 minute misconduct.
Still in the first minute of the game, and on the ensuring power play, Anthony Richard picked up a great pass from Alex Belzile, drove towards the net and fired the shot past Antoine Bibeau.
A Place Bell record of 8,845 toys were tossed by the 9,005 in attendance.
Former Rocket Brennan Saulnier and another Laval rookie, William Trudeau, got into the second fight of the game just over three minutes into the opening period.
Laval just kept scoring. Lucas Condotta and Alex Belzile scored to make it 3-0 36 seconds apart within the game’s first seven minutes. A few minutes after Angus Crookshank scored a power play goal to make it 3-1, Richard scored his AHL-leading 17th goal of the season — and second of the period — shorthanded to restore the three-goal lead. Before the period was through, Jesse Ylönen scored his sixth goal of the season. Earning an assist on the play was Rocket goaltender Joe Vrbetic who earned the win in his first career AHL start.
Vrbetic made 27 saves in the win. After Ylönen’s goal, Bibeau was pulled and replaced by Mads Sogaard.
Belleville cut the lead to 5-3 with two goals in the second period. Rourke Chartier and Scott Sabourin scored goals 2:03 apart.
In the third period, Laval pushed back on the Belleville comeback attempt. Brandon Gignac scored on the power play midway through the frame to make it 6-3, and after Sabourin scored his second of the game to make it 6-4, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard scored into the empty net to seal the victory for the Rocket.
The Rocket earned three of four points in the two home games against the Senators. Their next three games will be on the road when they head to Utica on Wednesday followed by a back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday in Cleveland.
John Parker-Jones entered the lineup as a forward replacing the injured Xavier Simoneau. The news on Simoneau was good after he was brought to hospital as a precaution during Friday’s game. The brunt of the impact hit his nose, and not the eye. He is expected to miss some time, but it could have been a lot worse.
The Rocket continued with 11 forwards and seven defencemen dressed because they simply don’t have any additional forwards on the roster as both the Montreal Canadiens and Rocket are dealing with injury issues.
After Kevin Poulin played on Friday, Vrbetic got the second half of the back-to-back.
The gap between the Rocket and the rest of the division is closing. They still have some work to do, but the division is getting closer.