The Laval Rocket had a rare Monday afternoon game and a slow start doomed their Family Day matinee as they fell to the Toronto Marlies 6-2.
The game was played at Scotiabank Arena, the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs in order to hold more fans for the special occasion.
Michael McNiven was making his first start for the Rocket since January 12, and allowed four goals on 16 shots in the opening period. It was his first game action since his NHL debut, where he allowed three goals in the third period against the Minnesota Wild on January 24. McNiven had been dealing with an injury, and has had a lack of game and practice time in recent weeks. His teammates were playing the second of back-to-back games and their third game in four days.
“I don’t really have an explanation,” said Rocket forward Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. “Turnovers really cost us, we didn’t help our goaltender in the first period.”
“[McNiven] didn’t deserve that,” Harvey-Pinard said. “We played bad defensively in the first period and he paid the price.”
“We try to be as consistent as we can but the next three months we play every other day. There are going to be games like today,” said Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle. “We're going to have ups and downs. I thought they were the better team tonight. We need to regroup and get ready for Wednesday.”
Joey Anderson opened the scoring early for the Marlies on the power play. He hung around the front of the net and put home the rebound 5:36 into the game. Just over two minutes later, with Laval on the power play Brett Seney broke up a play in the defensive zone, broke up ice and found Anderson who added a shorthanded marker for his second of the game.
Laval was trying to get to the intermission down two goals, but two late goals, 57 seconds apart, sealed their fate. Anderson earned his third point of the period when he had an assist on Antti Suomela’s goal with 1:12 to go, and former Rocket Joseph Blandisi added a goal with under 13 seconds to go.
Cayden Primeau entered the game for the second period, and wouldn’t fare much better to start. Just 2:46 into the period, Joseph Duszak scored his fourth goal of the year to make it 5-0 Toronto. Primeau would recover, and ended the game with 19 saves on 21 shots.
Four minutes later, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard opened the scoring for the Rocket. He scored his seventh of the season on the power play with a great backhand after pouncing on a loose puck.
Early in the third period, Louie Belpedio fired a slap shot from the right circle past Michael Hutchinson to make it 5-2.
That was as close as the Rocket would come. Kyle Clifford scored in the third to make it 6-2, which is how the game ended.
The two teams will play again in Toronto on Wednesday night. It will be the final game of Laval’s four-game road trip.
“I think we need to be ready right from the start, as soon as the puck drops,” said Rocket forward Peter Abbandonato about what needs to change for Wednesday. “We have to capitalize on our chances.”
“It will be another opportunity for us to rebound,” said Houle. “We’ll let them rest, it’s been a hard week and we’ll prepare for Wednesday.”
Gabriel Bourque returned to the lineup after missing the first two games of the road trip. Matthew Santos, on a try out, sat out. The Rocket are without seven players due to COVID-19, and have had to rely on several players from the ECHL’s Trois-Rivières Lions.
Laval remains in third place in the division, but are in the middle of a really busy stretch of their schedule.