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Laval vs. Toronto recap: Rocket crash back down to Earth in shutout loss

Credit: LAURENT CORBEIL / Arena du Rocket Inc.

On the heels of an important three-goal comeback victory over the Toronto Marlies on Friday night, the Laval Rocket squared off with the same club yet again. A pair of late goals by Philippe Maillet and two assists from Logan Mailloux pushed the Rocket to a third-period comeback the previous night, and they were looking to start a small winning streak on the heels of the win.

There were a few lineup changes from the previous night’s win, namely Xavier Simoneau missing out due to injury and William Trudeau drawing back in for Nicolas Beaudin after missing Friday night’s contest. Riley McKay also joined the formation, while Jakub Dobeš earned his first back-to-back starts after a strong game on Friday.

Things did not start with a bang to say the least in the opening minutes of the first period. McKay had the best look for the Rocket, but it was the Marlies who were getting the high-quality chances. Those chances were coming from errors made by the Rocket defence, including William Trudeau failing to recognize a charging forward before being bailed out by the quick pad of Dobeš.

Toronto’s constant offensive-zone pressure finally wore the Rocket down enough to open a lane for an attack. Alex Steeves attacked out of the corner, holding off Logan Mailloux and firing a shot far-side over the shoulder of Dobeš to open the scoring in the first period.

A lack of discipline on the part of the Marlies handed Laval a four-minute power play as Joseph Blandisi high-sticked Mitchell Stephens deep in the offensive zone. The Rocket nearly took advantage, but Dennis Hildeby came across his crease to rob Maillet of a wide open cage and keep Toronto’s lead intact. While Laval continued to fire chances on goal, their power play failed to register a goal.

Almost immediately after it expired, the Rocket found themselves on a penalty kill of their own. They killed off the penalty relatively easily, but as it came to an end, McKay ripped off a Marlies player’s helmet, getting him sent to the box for another two minutes.

Before the period could end, the suddenly red-hot tempers flared again as Brady Keeper cross-checked Logan Shaw, and Bobby McMann decided to try to rough up Jayden Struble. McMann got a minor for roughing to match Keeper’s cross-check at the end of the period.

Laval’s penalty-killers again came out strong, fending of the rest of the Marlies’ power play to start period two, and seemed to get the offensive attack going after a very quiet opening period. The constant pressure drew a call as Marshall Rifai hammered Lucas Condotta with a cross-check after the whistle, putting a struggling power play back on the ice for Laval.

The man advantage barely had time to get set before Lias Andersson was called for tripping, sending the game to four-on-four. Then not even a minute into that situation, Sean Farrell was sent off for slashing, giving Toronto a four-on-three power play for just over a minute. An incredible showing from the special-teams units kept the Marlies from doing much of anything, and kept the deficit at just one goal.

McKay made up for his earlier penalty by drawing one of his own, and at the risk of sounding like the worst type of broken record, the power play again did not find a goal that the offence sorely needed. As the power play expired, the Marlies capitalized on a disorganized defence and Kyle Clifford poked home a rebound to double the Marlies’ lead in the second period.

Another late power play went for naught as the Rocket struggled to break down the Marlies’ defence. While there were chances, they were solitary ones with no follow-ups or rebounds allowed. Defensively, the Rocket had done well through 40 minutes, but desperately needed the offence to come alive again in the final period of regulation.

Laval seemed to get the message in the intermission as the offence began generating chances right out of the gate, with Maillet being denied on the doorstep twice and then on a scramble the top line could not chip one by a sprawling Hildeby.

The missed chances came back to bite Laval instantly. The Marlies attacked in numbers down the ice. Nick Robertson looked off his passing options and snapped a shot though Dobeš’s five-hole to make it a three-goal lead for Toronto. The three goals became four just four minutes later as Shaw got a partial breakaway, and snapped one easily by Dobeš to all but seal the game for the Marlies.

Things continued to spiral as the Rocket had a regular march to the penalty box and let Toronto mainain its constant pressing in the offensive zone. With Mailloux sitting for cross-checking, the Marlies broke the Rocket’s impressive penalty-killing streak.

With a five-goal lead, Toronto was content to just dump the puck and hold the Rocket along the boards as the clock continued to tick away. Laval also seemed to feel the same way as they wanted to escape without making their night any worse. Despite the chippy nature of the game, neither side felt the need to spark any further contention.

Final Score: Toronto 5, Laval 0

After a tough two weeks for the Rocket, the team now has a week off. It will give them plenty of time to try to sort out the defensive issues along with fixing a stagnant power play.

Laval will be back next week as they head to Manitoba on Sunday, November 12.