This hasn’t been the best month of Kasimir Kaskisuo‘s professional career.
18 goals allowed in four games with a combined save percentage of .828 led to Eamon McAdam taking over the starting position for the time being. Kaskisuo appeared out of sorts and like a man suffering from a crisis in confidence, culminating in a brutal performance in relief against Syracuse ten days ago.
Since then, Kaskisuo sat out the trip to Manitoba, became a father for the first time, and found his old game in shutting out the Laval Rocket on the road on Saturday night.
After suffering a tough loss the previous evening, the Marlies came out and put together a dominant first period, limiting Laval to just two shots on goal.
Jeremy Bracco and Mason Marchment had the best opportunities to open the scoring at even strength before the Marlies found the net on the game’s first power play. Sam Gagner and Chris Mueller created just enough space to tee up Trevor Moore, who ripped home a one-timer from the slot.
Unable to convert on a second straight man advantage, the Marlies were indebted to Kaskisuo, who made a sharp right pad save to deny the Rocket of a shorthanded marker on a breakaway.
The Marlies‘ relentless puck pursuit led to a second goal just 28 seconds before the intermission buzzer. Chris Mueller recovered possession on the right boards and sent a pass to Bracco low in the right circle, where the diminutive winger placed the puck in the wheelhouse of Vincent LoVerde steaming down the ice between the circles.
The veteran defenseman blasted his one-time shot high into the roof of the net past Etienne Marcoux to double Toronto’s lead.
The middle frame was a more balanced period with both teams exchanging chances, but it somehow remained goalless despite a combined 22 shots on net.
Dmytro Timashov fired wide after more relentless work in the Laval zone forced a turnover, Moore was denied twice after creating his own partial breakaway, and Gagner’s one-time shot from distance was turned aside by Marcoux.
Arguably the Rocket had the better scoring chances, but Xavier Ouellet failed to capitalize on a rare turnover by the Marlies in their own zone and Nikita Jevpalovs was unable to corral the puck on a breakaway.
Sam Jardine almost scored his first goal for the Marlies, but Marcoux denied him with a diving glove save before the officials took over the game with some highly-questionable decisions.
McCarron attempted to lay a big late hit on Marchment, who took the brunt of the contact on his left leg and swung his stick around at the prone McCarron, although he didn’t connect at all with the Laval forward. The result was 2+10 for Marchment, who did not return even after his penalties expired, presumably because he was feeling the after-effects of the late hit. McCarron got away scot-free for his part in proceedings.
On the subsequent penalty kill, Kaskisuo made an incredible save diving backward to deny a certain goal, and Pierre Engvall almost tallied on a 2-on-1 break with Colin Greening.
In the final seconds, it looked like Stefan LeBlanc was going to score his first as a Marlie, but he was hauled down with no call.
With the words of their head coach ringing in their ears, Laval came out flying to begin the third period and put Toronto under a spell of pressure. Brett Lernout struck the post with a shot through traffic just two minutes in, and the Marlies rode their luck a little again at the midway mark as Alexandre Grenier fired a shot against the same post to Kaskisuo’s right.
The game opened up as Laval went searching for a goal, but they were unable to find a way past a dialed-in Kaskisuo.
With the extra attacker, Laval had Toronto hemmed in their own zone for almost the entire final three minutes, but Kaskisuo made three good saves and Moore was one of many Marlies to lay his body on the line to deflect a blistering slapshot high into the netting.
A 2-0 victory and a shutout for Kaskisuo was the perfect way to head into the Christmas break. The Marlies now only sit two points outside a playoff spot with three games in hand on the fourth-placed Utica Comets.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto improved to 8-0-1 when leading after two periods, and the power play is now 9-for-25 through the last five games. The Marlies are 4-1-0 in their last five and have only allowed six goals over that span.
– Two assists for Chris Mueller takes his season point tally to 31. More than that, though, Mueller led the way with an incredible work rate and his efforts along with Jeremy Bracco created the insurance marker.
– An assist for Jeremy Bracco takes him up to 27 points in 30 games, just five shy of last year’s total. He was another Marlie who really knuckled down on a less-than-ideal ice surface, as his line consistently hurried and forced Laval into mistakes.
– Vincent LoVerde scored his first goal of the season and he really carried much of the load this weekend in Laval with a much-changed defensive core. A true veteran presence who stepped up when his team needed him most.
“He’s obviously got even more responsibility now with the people we’ve got out of the lineup,” said Sheldon Keefe. “He played a great game and stepped in on the power play for us. He just led the way in the back and I thought all six defensemen did a great job today.”
– We’re running out of superlatives for Trevor Moore, whose 17th goal of the season proved the game-winner. He led all skaters with six shots and now has five goals in as many games. He more than deserves the opportunity to prove himself in the NHL, which he’ll be afforded now with Zach Hyman and Tyler Ennis out for several weeks.
– Never has a goaltender needed a shutout more than Kasimir Kaskisuo. He wasn’t overly tested at times through the night, but his positioning was solid, he allowed very few second opportunities, and he carefully selected the right moments to play the puck on the bad ice surface. Kaskisuo posted 19 saves for the fourth clean sheet of his AHL career. Hopefully, this is a much-needed confidence boost moving forward.
“As sound of a game as we’ve seen from him this season,” said Keefe.
– Saturday’s lines: