The Rocket found themselves back in action less than 24 hours after a loss in Allentown to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Rocket held a lead going into the third in that game before some mental lapses caused them to cough up the lead en route to a 4-3 loss.
Head coach J.-F. Houle didn’t have many spare bodies available to him, so the lineup changes against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton were minimal. J.-C. Beaudin slotted in on the fourth line, with Devante Smith-Pelly taking a spot in the press box as a healthy scratch. Joining Smith-Pelly was Shawn St-Amant, who was replaced by Alexandre Fortin. Gabriel Bourque was demoted to the fourth line, and Justin Ducharme was bumped up to the third. In net, Louis-Philip Guindon got the start to give Kevin Poulin the night off.
With it being Star Wars night in the arena, it only made sense for this game to start with an offensive explosion, with three goals scored on the first six shots of the game. First was Sam Poulin taking a drop feed from Felix Robert and fooling Guindon with a snapshot to make it a 1-0 game just over a minute into the contest. The Rocket then came right back down the ice with Joël Teasdale knifing his way through all three zones before neatly tucking home a rebound for his fifth goal of the season.
Rocket Goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 12, 2022
Joël Teasdale finds the back of the net like a thermal exhaust port on the Death Star and it's 1-1! pic.twitter.com/GesNMlRJ16
It wasn’t long before the Penguins took the lead back as Guindon lost track of a rebounded shot, and Poulin was able to swoop in and tuck it by a baffled Guindon.
The two teams traded power plays as the first period wore on. While the Penguins struggled to get much going, the Rocket nearly tied up the game again, but some strong goaltending from Louis Domingue kept them from finding a second goal. The man advantage for Laval had spurred them into seizing control of the game, but against the run of play Chris Bigras walked in and fired a shot upstairs to make it a 3-1 score.
That was it for Guindon’s night as he was then pulled in favour of Poulin. The new Rocket netminder was then immediately put under siege as the Pens looked to close the game out early, but Poulin held his ground to give Laval a chance to recover.
While the Rocket ended the period better than they started it, the team still found itself down by a pair of goals with 40 minutes left to play.
Things didn’t exactly go the way the Rocket hoped to start the second period as the Penguins dominated the puck and opened up a 7-2 shot advantage. Luckily, Poulin was sharp as ever, keeping the Penguins from adding to their lead as the offence tried to sort itself out.
The offence never materialized for the Rocket, as they traded low-danger chances for most of the period with the Penguins and failed to sustain any real attacking presence. A late slashing call on Poulin gave the Rocket a chance to snap out of the funk.
The man advantage looked sharp, but Domingue was up to the task. Multiple sprawling saves denied the Rocket a second goal, but at least gave the team some momentum heading into the final period.
Much like the first two periods, the third got off to a poor start for Laval as Beaudin was called for cross-checking and the Rocket had an early penalty to kill off. Unlike the Rocket in the previous period, the Pens were able to finish their open look on the power play, with Alex Nylander losing himself in coverage before rifling one past Poulin to make it a 4-1 game.
After a pair of minor penalties sent the game to four-on-four, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard’s hustle was able to draw a holding call, giving the Rocket a small lifeline. He wasn’t just satisfied with drawing the call, he also made sure the power play counted. Xavier Ouellet fed a pass to J.-S. Dea along the goal line, and Dea fired it right to the crease where Harvey-Pinard tapped it home.
Rocket goal!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 13, 2022
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard taps home the J-S Dea feed and it's 4-2. pic.twitter.com/D7rTsvWlsL
The joy was short-lived as a turnover at the blue line allowed Robert to break into the Rocket zone and snap a goal by Poulin to restore the Penguins’ three-goal lead.
A tripping call against Danick Martel then put the Rocket on another penalty kill without one of their key defensive forwards. Laval’s penalty-killers aggressively attacked the Penguins’ man advantage, allowing them to escape unscathed.
Shortly afterward, the offensive-zone pressure from Harvey-Pinard drew another penalty for the Rocket. The team opted to pull Poulin with the power play, attempting to get a quick conversion with the two man advantage with seven minutes left to play.
With Poulin on the bench, the Rocket hammered chance after chance on net, but Domingue refused to budge between the pipes. Eventually Poulin had enough time and he fired his third goal of the night into the empty net to seal the Rocket’s fate on Saturday night.
Final Score: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 6, Laval 2
The Rocket now head home and have a week before their next game when they welcome the Hartford Wolf Pack to Place Bell next Friday. Also of note, Corey Schueneman was set to play for Laval last night, but because of Kale Clague’s injury was held out as he is likely being called back up to Montreal in short order.