The Toronto Marlies continue to find ways to lose hockey games.
Against a struggling Laval team, who were pumped 7-2 the night before and had won just two of their last ten heading into this matchup, Toronto failed to impose themselves on the game in a sustained enough fashion en route to a 4-3 overtime loss on Saturday.
The Marlies actually made their brightest start to a game in some time as they dominated possession and offensive zone-time in the opening five minutes. Unfortunately, they had nothing to show for it and recorded just four shots on goal before Laval broke the deadlock with 10:30 on the clock.
After a long-range effort from Alexandre Alain created a scramble in front, Kasimir Kaskisuo denied Michael McCarran on the initial rebound but was unable to make the second save on Alex Belzile as the Marlies failed to win any net-front battles.
Mason Marchment really should have tied the game up immediately — Michael McNiven came up with a spectacular save — but a response wasn’t long in coming thanks to the roaming Calle Rosen.
Rosen’s surge down the left wing and perfect cross-ice pass found Jeremy Bracco alone just above the blue paint. It was the simplest of finishes into the wide-open cage for the sophomore winger — a goal that sent bears of all shapes and sizes onto the ice as Marlie fans were generous in their support of the Yonge Street Mission.
The Marlies‘ lack of discipline has been a real issue of late and they were punished for consecutive penalties before the intermission. On their second power play, Laval kept it real simple and Jake Evans’ low shot beat a screened Kaskisuo to give the Rocket a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes.
The Rocket only recorded four shots in the middle frame, but one of those extended their lead to 3-1 four minutes into the second period. A giveaway from Andreas Borgman presented former Marlie Byron Froese with the opportunity to beat Kaskisuo with a bullet top-shelf finish.
The Marlies recorded just one shot before capitalizing on a power play with almost nine minutes played. Trevor Moore tapped home a glorious feed from Bracco after tremendous work from Chris Mueller to keep the puck alive inside the offensive zone.
The Marlies needed to kill off a penalty to stay within one before controlling the remainder of the period without finding a breakthrough. A long-range blast from Rasmus Sandin that rattled off McNiven’s mask was as close as the Marlies came before the second intermission.
The final frame was beset by penalties, with the Marlies unable to capitalize on their chances during stints of 4-on-3, 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 power plays. Mueller’s spin and shot into McNiven’s pads from close range was as near as the Marlies came to scoring during that phase of play.
After wasting another man advantage at the nine-minute mark, Toronto looked bereft of ideas and appeared to be slipping towards a regulation defeat until a boneheaded penalty from Simon Despres gave them life with 2:15 remaining.
A high sticking penalty sent Toronto onto one final power play, where more brilliance from Bracco set up Mueller for a back-door tap-in to send the game into overtime tied at three apiece.
The Marlies failed to register a shot on goal in the extra frame and found themselves down a man following a reckless cross-check by Jordan Subban almost 200 ft away from his own net.
Despres redeemed himself for his earlier penalty by blasting home a one-time slap shot from the top of the left circle to secure the extra point for Laval.
Post Game Notes
– Congratulations to Chris Mueller, who scored his 200th AHL goal to earn the Marlies a point. He continues to lead the team in scoring with 23 points in 21 games.
– Jeremy Bracco was instrumental in Toronto taking anything away from this game.
The goal was put on a plate for him at even strength, but his two primary power play assists were big for a team that has struggled with the man advantage throughout the first third of the season. After just two points in his first nine games of the season, Bracco has 16 points in his last 14 (18 in 23 overall, third in team scoring).
– Calle Rosen recorded his 17th assist of the season with the primary helper on Toronto’s opening goal. He’s second in team scoring (19 points in 23 games) and ranks sixth in league scoring among defensemen.
– Michael Carcone made his debut on Toronto’s top line, which failed to click at all through 40 minutes. When Carcone and Morgan Klimchuk switched lines, it seemed to click a little better, although I wouldn’t expect Carcone to remain on the fourth line going forward.
“He is playing his first game here with new teammates, a new system — all of those types of things — and it looked that way,” said Keefe. “When we changed up the lines in the third period, we got a little bit more legs from everyone, including Carcone, who skated a lot better in the third period. He’s going to get better the more and more comfortable he is.”
– As predicted, Dmytro Timashov was a healthy scratch following some poor performances and a lack of discipline of late.
– Sam Gagner made his return after being loaned back to the Marlies by the Vancouver Canucks. His performance was nothing to write home about and that line with Pierre Engvall and Carl Grundstrom showed only glimpses of what they should be capable of after a strong start.
– Saturday’s lines: