Less than 24 hours after the Laval Rocket dismantled the Manitoba Moose 6-2, the two sides found themselves facing off once again at the Canada Life Centre. The game comes on the heels of a post-regulation melee which saw Brady Keeper cross-check Nikita Chibrikov in the face, after being two-handed in the legs after the horn. That was in turn followed up by Jayden Struble and Jeff Malott getting into a fight after Struble clocked Malott on his way to the scrum. The Rocket rookie will serve a three-game suspension for his actions and Malott was suspended for a game.
Struble’s absence meant that Mattias Norlinder drew back into the Rocket lineup alongside Olivier Galipeau. The rest of the lineup remained the same as the previous game, with Strauss Mann getting the nod to start after Jakub Dobeš picked up the win on Sunday.
The Rocket again exploded out of the gate to start the contest, tallying the opening goal just over 80 seconds into the contest. Philippe Maillet was able to weave his way through the Moose defence and fire a shot into the crease. Xavier Simoneau was there to drive hard after the loose puck, then pull the rebound away from Thomas Milic before jamming his own rebound home to open the scoring.
The Moose didn’t immediately surrender a second goal like the previous night, and actually drew the first penalty of the game with Norlinder heading to the box for hooking. Mann and the Rocket penalty killers were again sharp as the Moose swarmed all over the zone looking for a tying goal, but Laval kept their lead intact as the first period passed its halfway point.
Tempers flared late in the period as Mann went to cover a puck, but Moose forward Jeffrey Viel took a late whack at the Rocket goaltender. That drew in a crowd, including Keeper who had to be forcibly restrained by the officials from getting to Viel after the whistle. By the time things were sorted out, both sides had two players in the box as the temperature continued to rise.
That scrum was followed almost immediately by Ashton Sautner tackling Jared Davidson in the Moose crease, and being called for roughing, giving Laval a power play. The power play wasn’t able to cash in, but it swung the momentum back to the Rocket and they made the most of it before the end of the period. Jan Myšák put a puck deep behind the Moose net for Sean Farrell to grab. Farrell picked his head up, and fed Galipeau in the slot, and the defender patiently waited before snapping his shot by Milic to double the lead.
It was nearly a three-goal lead as the period came to its close. Brandon Gignac took off on an odd-man rush, feeding a pass to Joshua Roy on the break. Roy cut hard to the net, went to lift his backhand, but was denied by a quick pad of Milic.
Manitoba came out scrambling to try and slow down a Rocket team hitting its stride after the first period, but made life hard on themselves as Wyatt Bongiovanni took a slashing call with just under three minutes played. The Rocket’s power play struggled to find its footing, not really able to generate much consistent pressure as the Moose killed off the minor penalty.
The Rocket continued to halt their own forward momentum as they took back-to-back penalties with Norlinder’s being killed off, but Gignac’s hooking call was not. Gignac got inside position heading behind a Moose defender in the offensive zone, but the defender spun, somehow drawing a call. On that following power play, Bongiovanni buried a rebound chance to make it a one-goal game.
Manitoba took that goal and started pressuring the Rocket intensely, forcing Mann into a number of saves, and forcing the defence back on their heels as they pushed over and over again. Thankfully for Laval, the smart play of Roy got the puck out of his own zone and drew a call in the offensive zone on the same shift, putting Laval on a key power play.
The power play again could not convert, but the Rocket never left the Moose zone and it resulted in another late Rocket goal. Keeper kept the puck alive with a desperation poke at the blue line, and Farrell picked it up in the left corner. Farrell again scanned the zone, and put a perfect pass to Roy at the back post for a tap-in goal.
The goal seemed to deflate the Moose a bit, giving Laval the momentum back as the two sides headed into the intermission with Laval holding a solid two-goal lead.
Laval continued to take the wind out of the Manitoba sails early in the third period, with Simoneau tallying his second goal of the game. Logan Mailloux started an odd-man break with a neutral zone pass to Mitchell Stephens who, in the offensive zone, fed Simoneau to make it a 4-1 game just under two minutes into the period.
The lead was back down to two goals quickly, however, as the Moose struck back on their next offensive zone shift. Dominic Toninato won a draw back to Ashton Sautner at the point, Sautner waited a half second and snapped one off the goal post and in to cut the lead down to two.
The Rocket continued to make things difficult for themselves as the third period went on, with Riley McKay getting called for a cross-checking penalty with just over 12 minutes remaining. The penalty killers smothered the Manitoba man advantage, allowing Laval to keep their two-goal lead, and quell some of the momentum building against the Rocket.
Laval’s young stars continued to be a nuisance for the Moose as they found gaps and exploited them ruthlessly with the clock ticking down. A neutral zone turnover found its way over to Gignac who picked out a streaking Roy on the left wing. Roy collected the feed, and put a return pass to the back post for Farrell who buried the goal to all but close out the game for the Rocket.
Laval kept their foot on the gas, drawing two more penalties to help run out the clock, and thankfully end the game without any bench-clearing incidents to secure a second straight win.
Final Score: Laval 5, Manitoba 2
It was a much-needed weekend for the Rocket as they collected back-to-back wins for the first time this season, and snapped out of the October funk that hounded the young team. Laval now heads home for a Wednesday night showdown with the Belleville Senators at Place Bell.