The Toronto Marlies recorded their 30th road win of the season by downing Laval 4-1 on Friday night, extending their current points streak to eight games.
Toronto’s 10th win against Laval Rocket this season was never really in doubt despite it taking until the third period for the Marlies‘ domination to show up on the scoreboard.
The opening 20 minutes stayed scoreless and somehow Laval outshot Toronto 5-4. In reality, the Marlies were thoroughly on top, with the new top line of Trevor Moore, Miro Aaltonen and Carl Grundstrom causing havoc throughout.
The only real criticism was that the Marlies failed to put pucks on net with enough regularity.
Charlie Lindgren made one nice save to deny a wraparound attempt from Chris Mueller, while Garret Sparks had to be sharp to turn aside Michael McCarron inside the final 30 seconds to keep the game scoreless heading into the first intermission.
The second period got off to a sloppy start, with many skaters losing their footing on what looked to be a very wet ice surface. Neither side could take advantage of those mishaps before Toronto grabbed the lead just over three minutes in.
Andreas Borgman won possession pinching down the wall in the offensive zone and found Moore, who backhanded the puck into the pads of Lindgren from the side of the net. The rebound fell kindly for Grundstrom waiting at the far post to score in his season debut.
That lead would have been doubled four minutes later if not for a magnificent diving save from Lindgren. Mason Marchment pounced on a turnover before setting up Jeremy Bracco, who appeared odds on to score, but Montreal’s goaltending prospect flung himself to his left to make a remarkable save.
The Marlies found their next breakthrough around the midway mark when Calle Rosen fired home through a plethora of traffic in front on the game’s first man advantage after some good puck movement by the Toronto power play.
The Marlies were now firmly in control, barring Laval striking the iron on their best opportunity of the period. Ben Smith was the latest to be robbed by an acrobatic save from Lindgren, but Toronto nonetheless held a two-goal advantage heading into the final frame.
The game was over as a contest with just five minutes of the third period played.
Mueller struck twice on nice set-ups from Smith to double the lead and demoralize the home team, who were just playing for pride for the rest of the period.
As the clock wound down, the attention turned to whether Garret Sparks could claim his seventh clean sheet of the season.
With four minutes remaining, a drive to the net from Jeremy Gregoire was halted by a poke check before the puck fell kindly for Rinat Valiev. The former Marlie picked up possession and drove into the slot before jamming it home to spoil Sparks’ shutout bid.
It would have been rough justice for Sparks to concede a second, and it took a good save inside the final 30 seconds on Chris Terry to keep the Rocket at one.
The Marlies will now return home to complete the regular season against the Laval Rocket and Belleville Senators, in that order.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies current points streak record is 6-0-2. Toronto are 10-1-0 against Laval this season, with the last game of the season series to be played on Saturday.
– Consecutive three-point games for Chris Mueller means he surpasses the 50-point mark (19-33-52) in his 73rd game. The centerman has five goals in as many games and could now hit the 20-goal mark, a number that looked like an unlikely target at the midway point of the season.
– A pair of assists for Ben Smith takes him to 59 points (27-32) on the season through 72 games.
– Trevor Moore recorded his 20th assist of the year on the game’s opening goal. Moore has 24 points in his last 33 games after just seven points in his first 23.
– Carl Grundstrom found the net on his season debut and could have easily added to his total. This was the perfect introduction for the gritty winger, who is likely to play once more this weekend in preparation for the postseason.
– Garret Sparks recorded a fifth straight victory to equal his longest winning streak of the season. Tonight was win #31 overall and he continues to lead the league with a .936 save percentage.
– Friday lines: