The Toronto Marlies found another way to win despite being far from their best in Laval on Friday night.
The opening 40 minutes were a disjointed affair; between the poor ice, a plethora of penalties, the teddy bear toss and a goaltending injury, the game had little in the way of flow to it.
The opening period was special team-heavy with seven penalties called. Toronto struck first and it was no surprise it came with the extra man after some good looks on a previous attempt. Kasperi Kapanen finished backdoor on a play orchestrated by Chris Mueller and Kerby Rychel to put the Marlies up 1-0 at 15:03.
The home team struck back a mere 29 seconds later after a series of mistakes from Andrew Nielsen.
After deciding to shoot from just inside his blue line with Niki Petti right on top of him, Nielsen’s shot was inevitably blocked and the Laval forward had some open ice to skate into. Instead of trying to chase his opponent and assert some back pressure, Nielsen stumbled as he launched into a huge hit attempt which failed miserably and an odd-man rush ensued. Petti required no help, however, as he placed a wonderful shot to beat Garret Sparks. The goal sent stuffed animals onto the ice from the stands on what was Teddy Bear Toss night at Place Bell.
What wasn’t noticeable at the time was that Sparks had somehow injured himself in trying to deny Petti. Calvin Pickard entered the game in relief.
The Toronto Marlies’ excellent goaltending duo has been their strength this season and it was put to the test during the second period as the Marlies were heavily outplayed — their cause not helped by taking another two penalties.
Pickard turned aside all 11 shots he faced, keeping Toronto in the game with some excellent saves and few rebounds. Pickard’s performance allowed the team to regroup during the second intermission and the league-leading Marlies finally made an appearance in the third period.
From the drop of the puck in the final frame, Toronto dictated the pace of play and should have taken the lead off a Justin Holl chance. After some terrific puck movement, Holl sent the puck into the dislodged net but the goal was waived off immediately by the officials. The net was dislodged by Laval’s Brett Lernout, who in turn had taken out his goaltender, Charlie Lindgren. There was no case for Toronto interference on the play and the whistle didn’t appear to be blown before the puck crossed the goal line.
That disappointment only drove Toronto on, and it was Lindgren who was by far the busier man between the pipes in the third period.
A beautifully-crafted play from Kasperi Kapanen and Ben Smith came within a whisker of teeing up Miro Aaltonen but the Marlies weren’t denied from retaking the lead.
It was the power play that worked once again for Toronto, with Chris Mueller turning scorer on a shot through traffic after crisp passing from Kapanen and Aaltonen.
The Marlies rarely looked in danger after scoring at the eight-minute mark and could easily have increased their lead.
The best save of the game was made by Lindgren after a fantastic reverse pass from Trevor Moore found Dmytro Timashov in space in the right circle. The scorer of three goals last weekend was denied by Laval’s young goaltender who has recently impressed in the NHL with Montreal.
The Marlies should have netted a third power play marker but Jeremy Bracco inexplicably failed to hit the target on a similar play to Kapanen’s opening goal. The young man was certainly guilty of gripping the stick a little tightly as his blazing shot whistled wide when a more controlled finish would have broken his duck egg.
Travis Dermott sealed the victory with an empty-net goal from deep inside his own zone, marking a third straight win and preserving Toronto’s top spot in the AHL.
Marlies Post Game Notes
- Toronto improved to 6-1-0 when tied after 40 minutes of play and 13-1-0 when out-shooting opponents.
- The penalty kill was perfect on six occasions and continues to lead the league at 90% efficiency.
- Calvin Pickard stopped all 18 shots he faced for his seventh win of the year and sixth on the bounce.
- His save percentage continues to improve, now at .938.
- Chris Mueller recorded his third multi-point game in seven outings. The goal was his first game-winner of the season and he’s now tied for the team lead in scoring (18 points) with Andreas Johnsson.
- Kasperi Kapanen responded to two games without a point by recording a goal and an assist. He was a standout player in all three facets of the game.
- Adam Brooks led all Marlies skaters with four shots but like Bracco was unable to open his account. The line of Clune-Brooks-Bracco was a somewhat surprising success and generated a deal of offensive zone pressure without finding the net.
- Garret Sparks “tweaked something” according to Sheldon Keefe during his post game presser. The injury was not serious enough to prevent Sparks staying dressed in his gear, remaining in the tunnel during the game and skating on the ice with his team-mates after the final buzzer.
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