The Toronto Marlies three-game winning streak came to a disappointing end on the road in Laval on Friday night.
The ice surface certainly wasn’t conducive to crisp, incisive passing as the game progressed, but the Marlies simply didn’t generate enough offensively to come out on the right side of what was a tightly-contested matchup.
There was no scoring in the first period and just 11 recorded shots, seven of which came off Marlie sticks.
The Marlies put themselves on the back foot early by taking a penalty inside the opening minute and needed Eamon McAdam to come up with a good stop on a breakaway opportunity for Laval.
Toronto’s best chances fell to Carl Grundstrom — who chose to pass when shooting was the better option on a 2-on-1 break — and Pierre Engvall, who drew a smart reaction save from Michael McNiven, while Michael Carcone whistled his shot high on a good look following a turnover.
The Marlies thankful for a slice as luck with five minutes remaining, as a blistering shot from Hunter Shinkaruk struck the iron and bounced away from danger.
Toronto produced their best hockey of the game in the middle frame, but they had just one goal to show for their 14 shots on net by the end of it.
Trevor Moore almost gave them the perfect start 10 seconds in after an incisive pass from Mason Marchment teed him up before the Marlies broke the deadlock three minutes later.
From the far left corner of the blue line, Stefan LeBlanc fizzed a shot towards the net and Colin Greening got just enough of a tip on it to beat McNiven.
The lead lasted just 73 seconds, however, as Laval struck on the power play with a goal that incensed the Marlies. A long-range effort from Xavier Ouellet was clearly redirected by Michael McCarron with a high stick, but even after some consultation, the officials allowed the goal to stand.
The Marlies were unable to get going on their power play, wasting their lone opportunity of the period, and remained frustrated offensively during 5v5 play. Carcone was turned aside and Pierre Engvall was unable to corral a pass from Greening that would have given him half an empty cage to aim at.
Despite the few scoring chances for Laval, the Marlies were indebted to McAdam, who produced a sharp right pad save to deny Alexandre Grenier, and dodged a bullet on a poor finishing attempt from Nikita Jevpalovs, who fired wide on a breakaway.
The Marlies power play was hot heading into this game but it was unable to convert when they really needed it on Friday night. A full two minutes and then a shortened 30-second opportunity failed to produce a goal with the extra man, and the Marlies only generated nine shots on net through the final frame.
That was in part due to Laval setting up shop after they had scored what turned out to be the decisive goal with a little over 10 minutes remaining. A speculative shot from Daniel Audette wasn’t held by McAdam, and the rebound took a funny hop off the ice and straight into the path of Cale Fleury, who netted his second of the year.
Even with McAdam pulled with almost three minutes to play, the Marlies weren’t able to exert enough pressure on Laval and the officials again didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory during the final moments.
McNiven grabbed a long-range shot as Toronto looked to force an offensive zone face-off and set up a play, but incredibly, the officials allowed the final three seconds to run off the clock despite strong protests by Chris Mueller and Sheldon Keefe, in particular.
It was an unfortunate end to a game Toronto should have at least claimed a point from, but they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves with the teams back in action at 1 p.m. EST today (Saturday).
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies are 1-2-1 in the season series with Laval and three of the four games to date have been decided by one goal.
– Colin Greening scored just his second goal of the season, with his other marker also coming against Laval back in October.
– Stefan LeBlanc registered the primary assist on Toronto’s lone goal. It was a fairly solid debut performance by the Oakville native, who will be looking to contribute some offensive production at this level. He’s been Newfoundland’s leading scorer from the blue line (15 points in 26 games) this season.
– Rasmus Sandin is now at the World Juniors, while Andreas Borgman (concussion), Timothy Liljegren (high ankle sprain) and Calle Rosen (neck) were all absent through injury.
– The defense as a whole played well, but they were unable to generate the kind of offense that the four absent blue liners are capable of, especially on the power play.
– Michael Carcone replaced Morgan Klimchuk, with the latter suspended three games for his illegal hit in the Binghamton Devils game.
– Eamon McAdam posted 18 saves and will no doubt feel he should have hung onto the shot that produced a rebound for the winning goal. However, he did keep Toronto in the game with his teammates unable to produce enough run support in front of him.
– Friday’s lines: