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Rocket @ Moose recap & highlights: A full team effort earns Laval a gutsy win

A big second period, and a great showing from Kevin Poulin landed the Rocket a big win.

Club de hockey Canadien

Less than 24 hours after the Laval Rocket and Manitoba Moose left the ice, the two sides had to square off once again in Winnipeg on Wednesday night. However, the Rocket entered the game having had to shuffle the lineup once more due to another injury.

Cedric Paquette sustained an injury in Tuesday’s shootout loss, a tough blow for one of the hottest players on the roster. His exit brought Peter Abbandonato back into the lineup as the fourth-line centre, while Brandon Gignac was promoted to the second line. Also returning was Devante Smith-Pelly, who joined the fourth line as well, while J.-C. Beaudin was a scratch.

On defence, there was good news as Josh Brook was cleared to play after suffering some swelling around his previously injured knee. He took the place of Nicolas Mattinen on the top pairing, and between the pipes it was Kevin Poulin’s turn to start.

The opening 90 seconds were loaded with action at both ends of the ice, first with the Rocket creating all sorts of havoc in front of Arvid Holm, with Danick Martel and J.-S. Dea each having good looks on net. Going the other way, Morgan Barron snuck between the defence and forced Poulin to make a quick glove save to keep it a scoreless game.

While the Moose were beginning to get their grinding offensive-zone pressure started again, the Rocket were still finding ways to create counter-attacks. That pressure forced the Moose into taking a delay of game penalty, giving Laval the first power play of the night. The Rocket struggled to even gain the offensive zone on their advantage, and by the time the two minutes had passed, the best chances had fallen to the short-handed Moose.

As the Rocket continued to struggle to leave the gate, the Moose ramped up their attacks, frustrating the Laval players. Eventually that frustration boiled over as Rafaël Harvey-Pinard was called for roughing, putting the Moose on the man advantage. Unlike the Rocket, the Moose executed on their advantage as Mikey Eyssimont threw a shot to the front of the net, and Jeff Malott fired it over Poulin, who was down and out after Louie Belpedio ran into him.

The Rocket did get some momentum back late in the period as their fourth and first lines hemmed the Moose in deep. Manitoba did well to mitigate the damage by clearing away rebounds and blocking everything in front of Holm. As the horn sounded, the Rocket were lucky to be down just one goal, thanks to some strong work from Poulin.

Much like the first period, the Rocket came out strong to start the second, only this time their efforts were rewarded. An odd-man rush freed up Gignac along the right boards, and he was able to fire a cross-zone feed to Terrance Amorosa. The Rocket defender walked up the ice a bit before slinging a pass of his own into the slot, where Joël Teasdale flicked it home to tie the game.

Two-and-a-half minutes later, the Rocket were able to take the lead thanks to a hard forecheck and a lucky bounce around the net. Harvey-Pinard crashed in on the forecheck, forcing an errant pass that Danick Martel snagged as he flew into the zone. Martel drove hard to the net, cutting to his backhand and lifting a backhander over Holm that seemed to hang in the air forever. Luckily for the Rocket it crossed the line before being swept out of the net, giving Laval a one-goal lead.

The Rocket penalty kill went to work shortly after the goal as Olivier Galipeau went off for a hold. The power play lasted just three seconds, as Malott instantly interfered with Xavier Ouellet.

With the game at four-on-four, the Rocket took advantage of the extra space to further increase their lead. Martel held up and fired a shot that Holm kicked into the slot, right into the path of Belpedio, who dangled around the goalie and tucked home his ninth goal of the year.

The Moose drew one goal back, but thanks to some late glove-related heroics and a strong penalty kill, the Rocket entered the final period still leading by a goal.

Penalties were fast and plentiful to kick off the third as Nick Jones was called for a cross-check, leading to another fruitless Rocket man advantage. As that penalty expired, Brook stepped up for a massive hit in the neutral zone and was mauled by multiple Moose for his troubles, somehow leading to a pair of off-setting roughing minors on Brook and Leon Gawanke.

Even with a four-minute power play later on, the Rocket weren’t able to set up any kind of steady attack, let alone add to their tenuous lead. Running more time off the clock was a solid bonus, but the Rocket were clearly holding on as the third period wound toward its conclusion.

The Rocket had a penalty of their own to kill with Nate Schnarr in the box for delay of game, and after killing that off they had to contend with the extra attacker as Holm headed to the bench. Thankfully, Poulin remained sharp, and a display of relentless hustle by Harvey-Pinard resulted in an empty-net goal to seal a huge win for Laval.

Final Score: Laval 4, Manitoba 2

The Rocket now head even further into the west as they make the trek to Abbotsford for a two-game series with the Canucks, starting on Saturday night at 10:00 PM EDT.