In a way, it could be seen as a microcosm of the Laval Rocket’s season so far. The Rocket overcame a slow start to dominate the Utica Comets in a 6-2 win on Saturday night at Place Bell.
Mitchell Stephens and Brandon Gignac both had two-goal games, while Cayden Primeau made 29 saves. Primeau moved to 4-1-2 since being sent down from the Montreal Canadiens.
The Comets started the game off strong with several chances in the opening few minutes. Cayden Primeau made a save on Filip Engaras right in front of the net. After the Rocket had a chance at the other end, the play came back and Joe Gambardella sneaked behind the Laval defence and beat Primeau on a deke to give Utica a 1-0 lead.
The Rocket got better as the period went on, at one point losing the shot 12-4 but finished the period with a 16-13 advantage in that category. Gignac and Nate Schnarr had several chances, but Nico Daws stood tall in his first game back in Laval after last weekend’s All-Star weekend.
Primeau made his save of the period with just over three minutes remaining. After going behind his net to play the puck, the puck bounced in front of the open cage, but he reacted and made a diving glove save to keep the score at 1-0.
This was a significant save by Cayden Primeau... pic.twitter.com/rvxTRPUGD7— Jared Book (@jaredbook) February 12, 2023
Shortly after, Riley McKay fought Nikita Okhotiuk and the Place Bell crowd was really into it at that point.
The Rocket continued controlling the play to start the second period, outshooting the Comets 5-1 and had the advantage of an early power play. Dylan Blujus took an interference penalty, knocking Joël Teasdale into the boards awkwardly. Teasdale ended up going straight to the room but returned later in the period.
Laval took the next penalty, but took control of the game when Gignac took the puck up ice, made a move around 2022 second overall pick Simon Nemec, and backhanded the puck past Daws to tie the game up at 1-1.
Brandon Gignac ARE YOU KIDDING ME pic.twitter.com/KGMell6kl4— Jared Book (@jaredbook) February 12, 2023
Only eight seconds later, Schnarr fired a shot off of the loose puck and past Daws for the second shorthanded goal in a row to give Laval the lead they would not give up.
NATEEEE SCHNARRRRRRRRR#GoRocket pic.twitter.com/sPjEXtwj4Z— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 12, 2023
There are moments in any game where momentum can change the trajectory, and in this game it was clear as day in this game.
“The Primeau save, it could have made it 2-0 where he dove, the McKay fight, the big body checks in the first period, and the two quick goals on the PK... Game over,” said Rocket head coach Jean-Francois Houle.
Less than three minutes later, the Rocket extended their lead with Joël Teasdale making it 3-1.
Ben oui, Joël!— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 12, 2023
Attaboy Teaser #GoRocket https://t.co/UlivQmYu4K pic.twitter.com/5nUFnFYTRA
Nolan Foote got the Comets one goal closer tapping in a pass right in front of the net to cut the lead to 3-2.
Early in the third period, however, Mitchell Stephens scored twice — once on the power play and once shorthanded — 2:14 apart to put the game out of reach.
Stephens— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 12, 2023
Richard#GoRocket https://t.co/MiuBrd22eU pic.twitter.com/32Xydprtzz
Gignac added his second of the game later in the period.
The Rocket now head to the road for the rest of the month of February. First up is a three-game series against the Belleville Senators starting on Friday night.
Nos gars pour ce soir— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 11, 2023
Our guys for tonight#GoRocket pic.twitter.com/tDSlJJEA9B
John Parker-Jones re-entered the lineup for Jan Mysak as the Rocket are trying to ease him back into game shape after he missed two months. The team didn’t want him playing in a back-to-back so soon after returning.
No changes to the defence as they went 11-7 again, and Primeau once again got the start.
The Rocket won their third straight game and are now in fourth place based on points but because they have played more games, sit fifth in points percentage. They have not lost in regulation at home since November, but now head on the road for their next five games.