If the Montreal Canadiens want to turn to their school club to fill out their NHL roster, two players in particular left their calling cards on Friday night.
Brandon Gignac and Justin Barron each had three points in a convincing 6-2 Laval Rocket victory against the Rochester Americans at Place Bell.
About ten hours after the Habs traded center Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets, Gignac had three assists to join Alex Belzile and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard as the only players in Rocket history (19-17-6) to They reached the plateau of 100 points. with the team.
With just one American Hockey League contract in his pocket, Gignac is currently having the best season of his career, with 41 points in 42 games. For now, he appears to have done enough to sign a deal to help the Canadian on the Bettman circuit, but the ball is not in his court.
“I work hard every night, so I keep telling myself that if it has to happen, I’ll be prepared,” he said. I play with confidence and it’s easy to do well when you also have the coach’s confidence. »
His coach, Jean-François Houle, raised a good point.
“As I told you before, there are 31 other NHL teams that can come get him. It must continue like this. He opens the eyes of several teams and we are very proud of him. He played very well tonight and uses his skating very well,” Houle observed.
Barron, who was demoted to the American Hockey League about two weeks ago, performed “okay” in his first four games with the Rocket.
On Friday night, the 22-year-old defenseman had a goal and two assists and led the first power play unit well. He made some mistakes on defense, but he is working on this aspect of the game, as the Canadian asked him when he demoted him.
“I think I can still be better defensively, but it was good to score again tonight,” Barron said. I feel more comfortable defensively and my reads are better. I try to play more physical too. I focus on that. »
Houle had a few weeks to work with Arber Xhekaj on his zone game and the towering defenseman played with confidence in the American League before being called up to the NHL. The challenge is similar for Barron, but it was also important that he darken the record a bit.
“He needs to continue improving his defensive game, but it’s also good for him to score some points. He went on the attack and made good passes. “It is a good game for him offensively and he will continue to work defensively,” Houle analyzed.
Lias Andersson found two goals, while Joshua Roy, Mitchell Stephens and Philippe Maillet added a goal each for the Rocket, who had lost their last three games.
Although his teammates put in a great collective performance against him, Jakub Dobes made two very important saves at 2-1 in the first half, at the expense of Jiri Kulich and Isak Rosen. The Rocket sailed on this momentum and never looked back.
“We knew they were going to press after we took the lead. My job is to keep the momentum on our side and make sure I give my team a chance to win. It was a key moment,” said Dobes, who finished the game with 24 stops.
Lukas Rousek and Jeremy Davies responded for the Americans (20-16-4), who suffered a second consecutive loss. Dustin Tokarski gave up five times on 32 pitches.
The two teams will meet again at Laval’s home on Saturday afternoon.
On the wheel hats
Fans who arrived late missed some of the best moments of the first half, three goals in 3:34 and two great saves.
First, at the 27th second, Barron intercepted a pass at the blue line and quickly passed the puck to Gignac. The Rocket forward then passed the puck to Andersson, who easily completed the tic-tac-toe.
It took the Americans less than two minutes to get both teams back to the starting point. Rousek easily beat Barron and surprised Dobes with a backhand shot into the top corner.
Jean-François Houle’s team recovered just 1:43 later. Gignac quickly entered the enemy zone and gave the puck to Barron. The latter fired a shot that hit Tokarski’s left post before entering the net.
The Rocket immediately experienced a moment of flapping. Rosen served Mattias Norlinder a cup of coffee, but ran into Dobes. The Czech goalkeeper also stood out by taking off his glove against Kulich, during a numerical superiority.
Dobes’ teammates rewarded him when Stephens pounced on Norlinder’s rebound to make it 3-1.
The local favorites hurt the Americans at the end of the second half. During a power play, Roy accepted a pass from Maillet and fooled Tokarski’s guard on the near side.
The Rocket distanced itself even further in the 34th minute of the third period. From his zone, William Trudeau joined Maillet on the other blue line and the veteran hit a wrist shot over Tokarski’s glove.
The Rochester team saved face midway through the period, thanks to Davies, but Andersson sealed the result into an empty net.