The centre took a no-look feed from Jesse Ylönen and roofed the puck over Louis Domingue’s shoulder for the go-ahead goal as the Laval Rocket defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-3 at Place Bell on Saturday afternoon.
Over 8,000 fans erupted as the goal went in with 4:45 remaining in the third period, and Schnarr wasn’t able to contain his excitement.
“Amazing emotion out there,” Schnarr said. “The crowd really brought it today. It was easy to feed off that. Getting that late goal and getting the win with the team was awesome.”
En rappel! Nate Schnarr a inscrit son premier but avec le Rocket en marquant le but gagnant cet après-midi— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) March 27, 2022
Encore! Nate Schnarr scored his first with the Rocket with the game-winning goal this afternoon #GoRocket | @Schnarzy68 pic.twitter.com/9YpNflDMHa
“It was a very nice moment. I’m very happy for him. He works hard,” said Rocket forward Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. “He sits next to me in the locker room and I was looking forward to him scoring his first goal. When you go to a new team you want your first goal as quickly as possible.”
Schnarr was acquired by the Canadiens, and has an NHL contract, but the mission was to help the Rocket’s depth in what is a very tight playoff race.
“That was the first thing I heard when I got traded here,” Scharr said. “‘We’re in a tight playoff push so we need you to come help’ so that’s all I tried to do this week. Getting the goal was nice, but getting five out of six points was the most important thing.”
The Waterloo, Ontario native played in the AHL with current Rocket players Brandon Gignac and Danick Martel in the past, and they have helped him integrate. When he was acquired by the Canadiens, he also got a facetime call from Nick Suzuki, who played with Schnarr at the U16 level and the two won an OHL championship with the Guelph Storm in 2019.
His energy is apparent and Rocket players have said he’s already integrating himself in the room, and he talks to everyone.
Laval opened the scoring in the game’s second minute. Only 1:19 into the match, Louie Belpedio drove to the net and the puck found its way to Kevin Roy who fired the puck into the net as Belpedio and Domingue collided.
The Penguins quickly tied the game two minutes later when former Rocket Michael Chaput took the puck down the left wing and fired a shot past Laval goaltender Cayden Primeau. Primeau was the busier of the two goaltenders in the first period, making 14 saves.
Laval regained the lead midway through the first period when Cédric Paquette continued his strong play. The forward netted his fifth goal in his fifth game with the Rocket when he converted a Jean-Sébastien Dea pass in front of the net.
In the second period, the Rocket had three straight power plays, but were unable to get an insurance goal. After the game, Rocket coach Jean-François Houle said that he was still happy with the power plays because they generated chances and kept momentum. Laval’s power play was 0/4 but they killed all three Penguins power plays as well.
The Rocket did finally get a third goal. Jean-Christophe Beaudin brought the puck into the zone, went around the net, and centred for Bourque who converted the chance. Bourque had a goal disallowed earlier in the game as it was judged to be tipped with a high stick. This goal never would have happened if not for the hustle of Harvey-Pinard who stretched at the blue line to stay onside.
“I was very tired and almost lost my groin but I was happy,” Harvey-Pinard said. “It was a big goal for us. Finishing a shift like that is always fun.”
Before the end of the second, with only 45 seconds remaining, Samuel Poulin continued his strong play against the Rocket this season when he took advantage of a defensive lapse in front of Primeau to score a big goal to make it 3-2 entering the third period.
That goal became even more important when the Penguins tied the game early in the third period. Chris Bigras scored the goal when he came off the bench, picked up the loose puck at the left circle and wired a shot past Primeau to tie the game at 3-3.
The Rocket wouldn’t falter, however, picking up their play and finally getting the go-ahead goal by Schnarr late in the period. With the goalie pulled, another hustle play by Harvey-Pinard saw him beat out the icing, and he fired a shot from a bad angle into the net to make it 5-3 and seal Laval’s fourth win in five games.
Laval now goes out to Manitoba and Abbotsford where they will play two games against each team on a four-game road trip.
The only changes were Darien Kielb in for Dominic Cormier on defence, and Primeau starting with Kevin Poulin backing up. Primeau made 29 saves in the win.
Sami Niku, who is already in Winnipeg to be with his partner for the birth of their child, will rejoin the team on their road trip. Lukas Vejdemo is expected to return to the lineup as well. Alex Belzile is also nearing a return, but it isn’t confirmed when. Both have started to skate with the team.
Niku’s return will be a nice boost for a defence that has relied heavily on the veteran presence of Xavier Ouellet and Louie Belpedio over the last few games.
Jesse Ylönen was recalled by the Canadiens on Saturday night, and is unlikely to be with the Rocket for their road trip.
The Rocket winning four of five games, and earning nine of 10 points on their homestand has given them a bit of breathing room in second place. Regulation losses on Saturday by Toronto and Rochester have also helped. No teams can afford extended losing streaks as it’s a good way to fall out of the race.
It remains very close considering one of the teams ranked in the top six will miss the playoffs entirely.