After a listless defeat on Wednesday night to the Utica Comets, the Laval Rocket found themselves again searching for an answer to bring an end to their losing ways. Standing in front of them was a divisional rival and long-time bump in the road, the Toronto Marlies.
Some injuries and some extremely poor performances led to a major overhaul for the lineup on Friday as the Rocket went with an 11-forward, seven-defencemen alignment. William Trudeau missed out through injury, and was replaced by Nicolas Beaudin on the top pair, while Olivier Galipeau slotted in as the extra defenceman. It looked like Riley McKay was going to take the fourth-line winger spot, but was left out at the last moment. Jakub Dobeš got another start in net.
Laval got the start it needed after struggling to get in gear in previous games, first with a three-on-one rush that forced Martin Jones into a few saves in close. On the following shift, Sean Farrell pounced on an unaware Nick Robertson, stripping him of the puck and ripping a shot off the crossbar. Everyone lost track of the loose puck … except Xavier Simoneau, who was able to bat it into the slot for Mitchell Stephens. The veteran centre buried the shot and gave Laval the opening goal.
Laval put their lead in danger a few minutes later as Logan Mailloux went off for high-sticking and put Toronto on the game’s first power play. The Rocket’s penalty kill put in a strong effort, limiting the Marlies’ dangerous opportunities for the full two minutes, and only found themselves in trouble as Mailloux tried to jump into the play as his penalty expired. Some quick pad work and recovery from Dobeš kept the Rocket lead intact.
While Toronto continued to hold a shot advantage after their power play, neither side was doing much to try to add to the goal totals on the scoreboard.
Laval did earn its first power play with just under six minutes to play in the period and had a chance to widen the lead heading into the intermission. Laval’s power play was quiet, failing to trouble Jones much and allowing the Marlies to keep the deficit at just one goal.
The combination of Lias Andersson and Joshua Roy broke in on an odd-man rush, but Andersson waited a hair too long and was stonewalled by Jones. Before the Rocket managed to escape the period with the lead, they handled the early portion of a late Marlies power play with ease, but had 80 seconds left to defend when the second period began.
Out of the gate, the Rocket penalty-killers frustrated the Marlies’ power play. As the teams traded chances following the penalty kill it was Dobeš starting to steal the show as he stymied any Toronto chance.
However as the Rocket spent some longer shifts in their own end, they soon found themselves on another penalty kill, this time with Jayden Struble sitting for a cross-check. The penalty killing unit continued their excellent night, fending off a third power-play chance.
Toronto was clearly wresting control of the game in their favour, and the one thing preventing the dam from bursting was Dobeš continuing to put forth his best start of the season. After a turnover at the blue line, the Marlies had a perfect look at a cross-crease feed, but Dobeš got across to deny them with a combination glove/pad save in close.
The offence finally seemed to find its next gear following Dobeš’s big series of saves, with Xavier Simoneau and Lucas Condotta hemming the Marlies in their own zone so deeply that the Rocket were able to execute a full line change. Jones remained just as stalwart as his counterpart, keeping Laval from adding to their lead as the period approached its conclusion.
The increased pressure from the Rocket led to them drawing their second penalty of the game, but outside of them ripping a single shot of the post, the man advantage failed to make much of an impact.
Toronto however, was right back on top of the Rocket after the penalty expired, and Mikko Kokkonen found a sliver of space to beat Dobeš on the glove side to tie the game up.
Not even a minute later, it was Toronto putting themselves in the lead as Dobeš made an initial save on a long-range shot but Kieffer Bellows was unmarked in front of goal and lifted his first of the year past Dobeš.
Laval again was quick out of the gate to start the third period, generating multiple looks on net, but soon found themselves trailing by two goals anyway. A cleared puck by the Marlies found its way to Dobeš in the Rocket zone. Instead of clearing the puck behind his net, he attempted to play it up ice himself with a stretch pass. The pass was knocked down almost immediately and Nick Robertson buried the chance.
Andersson took it upon himself to will the Rocket back into the game, and his strong individual effort drew a holding call, putting Laval back on a crucial power play. The man advantage continued to be a non-factor as both units failed to use any teamwork, favouring individual efforts into multiple defenders and making it rather easy to see off the threat.
Laval hung around though, and through their efforts they finally managed to find a second goal and create a game again. Brandon Gignac fed a pass to Logan Mailloux at the point and the rookie blue-liner hammered a shot off Jones. The rebound bounced right to Philippe Maillet, and the veteran forward finally found his first goal of the year as he lifted his shot by Jones to make it a 3-2 game.
Thirty seconds later the Rocket struck paydirt again, turning the game completely on its head as the final minutes approached. Laval won a draw back to Tobie Bisson, who fired a clean shot on goal. Jones spilled the rebound and Jan Mysak was right there to poke it home and tie the game.
The Marlies seemed content to ride out the remainder of the game, but the Rocket’s stubborn persistence in the offensive zone paid off again. Brandon Gignac again won the puck behind the net, feeding it to Logan Mailloux at the point. Mailloux let a chest-high shot fly at the net, and Philippe Maillet got just enough of it to deflect it in.
All Laval had to do was see out the final 70 seconds to secure a much-needed victory, and the Marlies were pushing hard to get the game to overtime. A short clearing attempt landed in front of Gignac, and with his speed he was able to blow by the defence and pot the empty-net goal.
Final Score: Laval 5, Toronto 3
It was a huge victory for a Rocket team needing a positive result, and scoring four unanswered goals in a comeback win certainly qualifies. These same two sides will square off again on Saturday night with a 7:00 PM puck drop.