The Toronto Marlies recorded their most emphatic victory of the season, dropping seven on the Laval Rocket on Saturday.
Despite not arriving back in Toronto until 3 a.m. after playing in Rochester Friday evening, the Marlies stomped all over the rested Rockets during the opening 20 minutes.
Toronto earned the first power play of the game but were unable to generate a scoring chance. Instead, Kyle Baun had a shorthanded breakaway opportunity for Laval, and who knows how the complexion of the game may have changed if Calvin Pickard hadn’t denied the Laval right winger at that point.
The scoring parade started for the Marlies seven minutes in when Jeremy Bracco escaped down the right wing on an odd-man rush. A trailing defenseman denied the pass, but the rookie winger looped around behind the net before finding Andrew Nielsen pinching into the play. The defenseman’s blast from the left circle was redirected home by Dmytro Timashov in front.
Three minutes later, it was 2-0 Marlies after Miro Aaltonen jumped on a broken play between the circles and quickly moved the puck to his right. In the blink of an eye, Nikita Soshnikov fired home from a tight angle.
The road team found them behind by three goals with less than 15 minutes played after Frederik Gauthier flipped a pass from the right wall to find Colin Greening in the slot, where the veteran forward made no mistake.
A shell-shocked Laval outfit found then themselves down by four heading into the intermission. Chris Mueller’s offensive zone faceoff win sent the puck back to Kerby Rychel, whose one-timer deflected off of Ben Smith’s stick on its way into the net.
Toronto began the second period as they had the first but this time capitalized on their early power play opportunity. Some slick puck movement, including a pair of behind-the-back, no-look passes, resulted in Trevor Moore making it a 5-0 game.
With the two points now firmly in the bag, the middle frame petered out as a contest, but Laval had the chance to open their account with a pair of power play opportunities. Pickard wasn’t for beating, however, with notable stops to turn aside Chris Terry and Jordan Boucher as Laval fired 16 shots at the home net in the middle 20.
Toronto got themselves back on track early in the third period, extending their lead two minutes in. Andreas Johnsson broke across the blue line on a partial breakaway, and despite the attention of the back-checking Stefan Leblanc, the Swedish winger scored for the third consecutive game.
The visitors almost struck back immediately after a turnover from Timashov allowed Terry a prime opportunity from the slot, but Pickard kept Laval’s leading scorer from getting his team on the board.
A seventh marker for the Marlies then arrived thanks to a telling pass from Bracco down low on the right wing, with Rinat Valiev on hand to finish from the crease.
That was the final tally for the Marlies, who had a goal waived off in the final 90 seconds for goaltender interference.
Pickard deserved a shutout for his efforts, but it was taken away from him with six minutes remaining when Mueller was stripped of the puck in the left circle and Markus Eisenschmid finally put Laval on the board.
A 7-1 final for Toronto was their fifth straight victory on home ice in a run stretching back to December 31.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto extended their point streak to 13 games (12-0-1), and in doing so tied the franchise record set during the 2007-08 season (11-0-2).
– Season team highs were accomplished with four goals in the first period and seven goals in a single game.
– Just three skaters failed to register at least a point, while Frederik Gauthier was the only player not to record a shot on goal.
– Three assists for Jeremy Bracco is his best single game points haul as an AHLer.
“He made a lot of really elite plays and passes out here today,” said Sheldon Keefe. “That said, once we built the lead, I’m not sure the game itself is much of a hockey game. When things relax a little bit, a guy like him can shine. If anything, I thought this game was a good chance for those guys – Brooks and that – to feel the puck and play a lot and gain some confidence. That looked like that was the case.”
– Nikita Soshnikov added a goal to go with his assist on Friday and nearly ended this game with a brace but hit the crossbar early in the third period.
“That whole line [Johnsson-Aaltonen-Soshnikov] was really good today,” said Keefe. “They moved the puck real well. For Sosh, it’s just about getting his legs under him and getting some hard, competitive minutes. I think this weekend served its purpose for him. He’s got a lot more to offer, but a real positive first step for him.”
– Andreas Johnsson scored his 22nd goal of the season and has recorded eight points (5-3-8) in his last three games. Johnsson is now tied for second in the AHL in goal scoring.
– A pair of assists for Miro Aaltonen gives him back-to-back two-point games (1-3-4).
– Dmytro Timashov found the net for the 10th time this season, breaking a five-game pointless streak.
– Calvin Pickard posted 31 saves for his 15th win of the season in his 20th start.
– Saturday’s lines: