Rocket vs. Islanders recap & highlights: Emil Heineman scores in a losing effort

The newcomer provided some offence, but late goals doomed Laval.

Coming off a much-needed win last week, the Laval Rocket were back in action, looking to move back into the AHL North Division’s final playoff spot. In their way were the Bridgeport Islanders.

The Rocket received a huge boost with Anthony Richard being returned from his emergency recall in Montreal, and by the debut of prospect Emil Heineman who joined the club earlier in the week. On defence the debut of Jayden Struble was still on hold as J.-F. Houle attempted to work out his best starting six blue-liners out of the nine available to him.

The chances were flying at both ends of the ice through the opening minutes, with Richard running riot through the offensive zone for multiple scoring chances. At the other end of the ice, Cayden Primeau remained cool and composed as the Islanders found gaps of their own to counter-attack through.

As the sides traded chances, it felt like the opening goal was coming at any moment, and during an extended sequence in their own end, the Rocket ended up on the game’s first penalty kill. The kill was a short one as the Islanders took back to back penalties, putting the Rocket on a two-man advantage late in the first period.

The results of the Rocket power play were not inspiring as they spent most of the time passing through their options around the net, not taking advantage of the shooting lanes and allowing the Islanders to escape unscathed with just over five minutes left to play.

On a penalty kill of their own before the period ended, the Rocket were not as fortunate as the Islanders broke the deadlock with Andy Andreoff at the side of the net slamming home a rebound chance from Dennis Cholowski. That goal was the only one of a very intense and fast-paced opening 20 minutes, leaving the Rocket trailing heading into the intermission.

A quick start in the second period allowed the Rocket to head to an early power play as Brandon Gignac drew the interference call from Robin Salo. Much like the first period, and really the last month or so, the power play struggled to do much of anything.

With the penalty killed off, the Islanders took the opportunity and sprung an odd-man rush the other way, and it was soon a 2-0 game as Kyle MacLean beat Primeau for his ninth goal of the year.

Thanks to Primeau, it was kept a two-goal deficit as he made a trio of saves on the Islanders after a partial breakaway chance. Those saves ended up being important as the Rocket drew a power play out of it afterward and had a chance to climb back into the game.

The power play quickly became a two-man advantage again, with Chris Terry called for hooking William Trudeau, giving Laval a golden opportunity to erase the Islanders lead. It looked like the Rocket were about to squander their second two-man advantage of the night, but with five seconds left they found their first goal of the night through the debuting Emil Heineman. Pierrick Dubé got in deep, firing a shot that kicked a rebound right into open space, where Heineman was on the spot to rifle it home for his first AHL goal.

The Rocket then shot themselves in the foot as Trudeau went to the box, and almost instantly the Islanders restored their two-goal lead with a power-play goal with just over a minute to play in the period.

Laval, needing a huge third-period effort, came out of the intermission flying, but the steadfast goaltending of Cory Schneider continued to keep them at bay through the opening minutes. That pressure didn’t let up through the midpoint of the period. It was all Rocket as they fired shot after shot on net, without finding a single bounce in their favour around the goal.

Mattias Norlinder continued to have a strong game as the minutes got shorter and shorter, drawing a penalty in the defensive zone and giving Laval a four-on-three power-play chance with seven minutes to play. Again the power play was fended off, and with four-and-a-half minutes to play the Rocket chose to pull Primeau for a chance at a comeback.

The extra attacker paid off almost instantly as Peter Abbandonato drove down the centre lane, creating a scramble with his shot. After Joël Teasdale fanned on a shot from the high slot, the puck slid to the side of the net, where Mitchell Stephens was waiting to sling it into the net to make it a one-goal game.

The goal gave the Rocket a chance to complete the comeback after a frustrating night, but while pushing for an equalizer, a turnover caught many of the players deep in the offensive zone, and resulted in a two-on-one for the Islanders. The rush ended with a goal from Paul Thompson, making it a two-score game once more.

Disaster struck moments after the ensuing faceoff as an attempted pass by Richard at his own blue line landed right on the stick of Arnaud Durandeau, who put a shot past Primeau on a breakaway to seal the loss for the home team.

Brandon Gignac was able to get one of the goals back, but with just 27 seconds to play, there wasn’t enough time for it to make any difference in the result, and the Rocket lost for the sixth time in their last eight games.

Final Score: Bridgeport 5, Rocket 3

The loss keeps Laval in last place in the North Division by points percentage, though just three points back of fourth place. With 12 games remaining on the schedule, they need to start generating some wins, starting on Friday night when they host the Milwaukee Admirals.

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