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Rocket @ Canucks recap & highlights: Better effort, same result

The Rocket had a strong bounce-back game, but ran into a red-hot goalie in a losing effort.

Club de Hockey Canadien

Less than 24 hours after their last meeting, the Laval Rocket and Abbotsford Canucks were set to clash once again. The Canucks dominated Saturday night’s affair with a three-goal first period and a stifling performance that saw Laval held scoreless until the final seconds of the game.

After a disappointing effort, there were naturally lineup changes to come, in particular on defence where Nicolas Mattinen drew in for Josh Brook, who had a rough outing the night before. Nate Schnarr was moved back to the second-line centre spot, bumping Lukas Vejdemo down to the third. On the fourth line, Devante Smith-Pelly replaced Justin Ducharme, and in net Kevin Poulin was given his expected start.

The previous night’s physicality returned as both sides took a cautious approach out of the gate with shots at a premium for either side. The Rocket were the first team to start to piece together a steady attack as the period ticked on. Gabriel Bourque had a chance from the circle and the Rocket followed it up by having Sami Niku poking a chance on net that Mikey DiPietro had to smack away with his glove.

Just as it looked like Laval was going to break the deadlock, a Canucks counter forced Niku into taking a tripping penalty. On the ensuing power play, it was the high-end firepower of the Canucks making itself known once more as Jack Rathbone teed up Sheldon Rempal for a howitzer from the point that Poulin had no chance of stopping.

The Rocket came right back down the ice looking to get on the scoreboard themselves. As they swarmed the offensive zone, a deflection from Joël Teasdale beat DiPietro, but clanged off the inside of the goal post and away harmlessly. The continuous pressure from the team did have a positive effect however, as the Rocket drew a penalty of their own and headed to their first power play of the night. While the Rocket didn’t convert in the final moments of the first period, they were set to start period two with 1:15 of power-play time and a fresh sheet of ice to work with.

The man advantage wasn’t able to click enough to generate a goal, but it did help to keep the offensive pressure up as the period started. Multiple lines continued to keep the puck deep in the offensive zone and made life difficult for DiPietro, but a goal still eluded the Rocket despite their shot advantage.

Some feisty feelings continued from the previous night as Rafaël Harvey-Pinard caught Jarid Lukosevicius with a huge hit behind the net in the Canucks’ zone. From there, a board battle turned nasty as Danick Martel took a swing at Chase Wouters, and Wouters answering with three cross-checks that eventually sent both players to the box. With extra space on the ice due to the four-on-four, Laval was able to keep their attack up, but matching them the entire way was DiPietro, who wasn’t allowing any follow-up chances.

The Canucks’ young netminder’s body of work included a diving paddle save after Kevin Roy got hold of a cross-crease feed from J.-S. Dea. Despite the Rocket controlling the flow of play, the Canucks nearly doubled their lead thanks to a pileup in the crease after a big save from Poulin.

The third period started much like the second had with the Rocket refusing to let go of the puck and the Canucks refusing to cede an inch of ice in front of their net as they kept Laval at bay. It wasn’t long until the Rocket’s sustained pressure finally found a breakthrough thanks to Xavier Ouellet.

A fourth-line shift in the offensive zone started with J.-C. Beaudin winning a draw, allowing Abbandonato to feed a pass to Ouellet at the point. The Rocket captain stepped in and let the shot fly past DiPietro to tie the game at one goal apiece.

A Jett Woo interference call then sent the Rocket back to the man advantage, and during their two-minute power play the team threw everything short of the kitchen sink at the Canucks’ net. DiPietro came across to rob Dea with his pad and glove, before following it up with no less than four pad saves in the crease as the Rocket continued to hammer chances on net.

It seemed like everything was going Laval’s way as the period was nearing its end, and then the Canucks struck once again. Rathbone stepped into a puck and rifled a shot from the point right by Poulin’s blocker to put the Canucks back on top again.

With 90 seconds left to play, the Rocket ended up on the power play thanks to a delay of game penalty, and with Poulin on the bench they had a two-man advantage to work with to try to find a tying goal. That goal never came as the Abbotsford penalty kill came out of a net-front scramble with the puck and John Stevens buried the 200-foot empty-net dagger.

Final Score: Abbotsford 3, Laval 1

The club now heads back to the friendlier confines of Place Bell, where they welcome the Rochester Americans for a two-game series starting Wednesday.