Rocket vs. Senators recap & highlights: Furious comeback falls short in overtime

The Rocket overcame a three-goal deficit to earn a point in their home opener.

The Laval Rocket overcame deficits of 4-1 and 5-3 to force overtime, but came up short in the extra frame, falling to the Belleville Senators 6-5 in their season opener on Friday night at Place Bell in Laval.

Rourke Chartier skated up the left wing and fired a shot over Cayden Primeau with 27.2 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Senators the win.

Up to that point, Primeau was great in overtime, making five big saves before Chartier beat him. The Rocket were outshot 6-1 in the period. Primeau made 32 saves in the game, and was solid behind a lacklustre defensive effort in front of him.

It was the second big comeback against Belleville in five days. Last Sunday, in the final pre-season game Laval overcame a 5-2 third period deficit to force overtime, but fell 6-5 in a shootout.

“It was a copy-paste of last week in Belleville,” said Rocket forward Anthony Richard. “We had a good start, and they got lucky on some goals, so we had to come back from behind. For a young team to come back twice in the span of five days, it’s positive for us.”

Laval opened the scoring early in the first period. After some great chances in front, Madison Bowey fired a shot past Mads Sogaard to give Laval a 1-0 4:16 into the game. There was contact between Sogaard and a passing Rocket forward during the chances, leaving the Belleville goaltender shaken up. He wasn’t 100% for Bowey’s shot and actually left the game, and was replaced by Kevin Mandolese for the rest of the game. Mandolese made 24 saves on 28 shots.

Exactly one minute later, Philippe Daoust capitalized on a Rocket turnover for a partial break. Primeau made the original save, but Jayce Hawryluk put home the rebound to make it 1-1.

Two minutes later, after a whistle in the Senators crease, Mitchell Stephens cross-checked a Senators player in the face and was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The Rocket killed the three minute power play (after Belleville served their off-setting penalty) but had to deal with 11 forwards and mismatched combinations for the rest of the game.

The Senators took their first lead of the game 7:22 into the second period when after an Angus Crookshank shot, Lassi Thomson batted home the rebound out of mid-air with his stick just below the bar.

Belleville added two goals in 2:04 seconds from Kristians Rubins and Roby Jarventie to open a 4-1 lead. Jarventie’s goal came on a five-on-three power play.

Laval got some life back when Brandon Gignac picked up the loose puck and drove down the left wing before beating Mandolese to make it 4-2 with only 46 seconds remaining in the middle period.

Laval crept closer with a power play goal of their own. Great passing from Mattias Norlinder to Rafaël Harvey-Pinard to Jesse Ylönen, who blasted a shot past the Senators goaltender made it 4-3, just over five minutes into the third period.

Midway through the period, Belleville extended their lead to 5-3. Viktor Lodin picked up the puck in the neutral zone and beat a flat-footed Gignac to get a clear path to Primeau. He put the backhand past the Rocket goaltender to restore the two-goal lead.

The Rocket continued to fight. After an offensive-zone faceoff shorthanded, Bowey’s slapshot from the point was tipped by Harvey-Pinard to make it a one-goal game once again. Although he didn’t get an assist, Alex Belzile’s faceoff win set the entire play up.

The comeback was completed with 3:58 left in the third period. With the puck down low, Danick Martel made a beautiful pass to Gabriel Bourque at the side of the net, who made no mistake into the open net.

Despite losing in overtime, there were several bright spots for the Rocket. Norlinder had his best game in North America, and looked unrecognizable from his 12 games last season. He was relied on heavily by Jean-François Houle, and will have a lot of ice time. He played on the power play on the unit with Harvey-Pinard, Ylönen, Xavier Simoneau, and Gignac. He also started the three-on-three overtime.

Montreal Canadiens second first-round pick in 2022, Filip Mesar, played his first American Hockey League game, and had scoring chances of his own, however he was very disappointed with his play on Belleville’s third goal. He was at the end of a long shift, and was pushed off the puck, leading to the turnover that allowed the Senators to score. While he was disappointed with that effort, Houle said that wasn’t the reason he shortened his bench in the third period. Houle said that he simply went with the hot hands.

The Rocket and Senators face off again on Saturday night, but this time it will be in Belleville’s home opener. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.

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