AHL: Rocket have fun at home against Islanders

The Laval Rocket must take advantage of certain opponents if they want to stay at the top of the playoff race. Bridgeport residents are definitely one of them.

Jakub Dobes made 26 saves and the Montreal Canadiens farm club easily defeated the Eastern Conference’s worst team, 5-1, Wednesday night at Place Bell.

Those from Laval were returning from sweeping a two-game series against the Cleveland Monsters, the best team in the North section, and confirmed their success by dominating a rival that is practically no longer in the playoff picture.

The score might indicate a short afternoon of work for Dobes, but before his teammates got going, he stopped some quality shots to set the tone.

The 22-year-old goalkeeper notably frustrated Jeff Kubiak in the first half, when he was forgotten in the slot. Had the attacker hit the target, the match could have taken a very different turn.

“Dobes made three great saves early in the game to give us confidence. Then we scored some goals and took the lead. In general, all the players performed well,” highlighted coach Jean-François Houle.

Dobes earned the first shutout of his American League career exactly two weeks ago, when he gagged the Islanders (20-31-7).

During this clash, the Rocket (26-24-8) exploded offensively in the second half. This time the floodgates opened with two goals at the end of the first half.

Turnovers caused in the neutral zone fueled the Laval team’s transition. Ultimately, it was defenders Tobie Bisson and Olivier Galipeau who benefited.

“Our transition was great tonight. We picked up a lot of speed in the neutral zone and that gave us good sequences towards their goal. We had two goals from our defenders and that always helps,” Houle analyzed.

During the middle period, Galipeau caused another turnover in the neutral zone and Brandon Gignac reignited hostilities by scoring a second shorthanded goal in two games. It was also the 14th AHL short man goal for the Rocket this season.

“We trust each other more on the penalty kill. We are capable of generating turnovers and we have a lot of attacking speed. I think Brandon has one breakaway per game with a penalty. We took advantage of that,” Galipeau said.

Lias Andersson and Sean Farrell added more before the halfway mark, leading the Laval team to a third consecutive victory. They were also one point behind the Toronto Marlies and the last playoff spot in the North section, but the Maple Leafs farm club has three games in hand.

The Rocket’s new acquisition, Arnaud Durandeau, was not in uniform. Houle indicated that he might have a chance to play Friday night, when the two opponents meet again at Place Bell.

Julien Gauthier was the sole scorer of the goal for the islanders, who suffered their second consecutive defeat. Ken Appleby started the game, but was chased after allowing five goals on 22 shots. In relief, Henrik Tikkanen was perfect with 15 shots.

Dangerous in the neutral zone

The Rockets’ game plan in the first period seemed precise and they got several pucks into Appleby’s net. The best scoring opportunity, however, fell to Kubiak, frustrated by Dobes.

With just over two minutes remaining, Gabriel Bourque attempted a fake entering the zone and the puck was recovered by Bisson. The defenseman surprised Appleby on the glove side with his seventh goal of the campaign.

Just 56 seconds later, Mattias Norlinder caught a pass with his skate and handed the puck to Galipeau. His one-timer seemed to change trajectory before moving the ropes.

The Rocket couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second half and manhandled the visitors by hitting three shots in 6:39.

Shorthanded, Galipeau intercepted a puck in the neutral zone and launched Gignac on a breakaway. The Laval team’s top scorer continued his good streak by deceiving Appleby’s vigilance.

Jean-François Houle’s men took advantage of a fall in the neutral zone to find themselves outnumbered. Philippe Maillet made a high pass to Andersson, who put the puck into the top corner.

Finally, just over two minutes later, Logan Mailloux accepted a pass from Gignac and hit the crossbar, but Farrell capitalized on the return to extend the lead to 5-0.

The Islanders at least had the honor of denying Dobes a shutout at 8:51 of the second half. During a power play, Dennis Cholowski’s shot hit Gauthier in front of the net and the puck slid behind the red line.

Dobes and the Rocket did a good job with the puck to confirm their victory.

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