When asked what he liked best about Friday night’s 1-0 overtime victory, Calle Rosen responded by saying, “the win.”
It was that kind of game for the Toronto Marlies as they were constantly frustrated with missed opportunities and a brilliant performance in net by Laval goaltender Charlie Lindgren.
Back on home ice following the Boat Show road-trip and the All-Star break, Toronto set the tone early with a fast pace to their game that had Laval back on their heels.
The Marlies failed to make one power play count, and despite out-shooting Laval 10-4 through the opening 20 minutes, created just two scoring chances of note. A Laval turnover led to Dmytro Timashov forcing Lindgren into a good glove save, while Stefan LeBlanc was unable to corral a pass from Sam Gagner when all alone above the blue paint.
After a heavy fall following a hit, Mason Marchment left the game for good, forcing Sheldon Keefe to get creative with his line juggling the rest of the way.
The Marlies weren’t as dominant in the middle frame, but they again rued a number of missed chances.
A power play to start the period resulted in Pierre Engvall ringing a shot off the crossbar before the one-way traffic continued after the penalty expired, with Sam Jardine bringing more heroics out of Lindgren on a no-look backhand attempt.
It took the Rocket almost seven minutes to record a shot on goal, with Michael Hutchinson needing to be sharp to turn aside Byron Froese from the slot.
Toronto then found themselves in the box for the first time, but they killed the penalty and almost struck immediately following its expiry. After leaving the box, Chris Meuller teed up Calle Rosen as the defenseman drove the net, but Rosen’s tipped effort was turned aside by the blocker of Lindgren.
A second straight power play for Laval didn’t result in a goal, but a handful of seconds after the Marlies returned to full strength, Laval came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock. After Nikita Jevpalovs whiffed on a great chance from the slot and with the puck trickling against the goal post, Hunter Shinkaruk appeared to have a tap-in, but Hutchinson robbed him with a spectacular stick save.
That was a piece of good fortune that Toronto deserved with their performance, but they found themselves down another body early in the final frame. Adam Brooks took a heavy looking fall and required assistance heading down the tunnel, leaving the Marlies with 10 forwards for the time being (he returned later in the period).
The Rocket were limited to just four shots in the third period, although the Marlies were indebted to Stefan LeBlanc for bailing out Colin Greening following an uncharacteristic turnover from the veteran that resulted in an odd-man look for Laval.
At the seven minute mark, Calle Rosen became the next player to strike the crossbar with a booming shot from the point following excellent work by Gabriel Gagne
Sixty seconds later, Lindgren was again frustrating the Marlies as he robbed Greening after an excellent reverse pass from Sam Gagner.
With scoring chances at a premium, a power play with six minutes left on the clock appeared to be the best possibility of solving the game in regulation, but the deadlock remained in place through to the end of regulation. Toronto huffed and puffed but simply couldn’t break down the Laval wall.
Another man advantage presented itself early in the extra frame, with Daniel Audette tabbed for high-sticking on Trevor Moore. Keefe went with the bold move of putting out four forwards and it almost backfired when Jeremy Bracco was called on to make an excellent defensive play as Toronto scrambled after a misplay in the Laval zone.
The winner came courtesy of a great deal of patience and poise with the puck from Trevor Moore. From low in the right circle, Moore threaded a pass through the legs of Maxim Lamarche to tee up Mueller for a backdoor tap in at the second attempt.
The Marlies stuck to the process and fully deserved the two points, but they need to build on it in Saturday’s matinee rematch.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies move up to third in the North Division with 52 points as they look to create some space between them and the chasing pack (five points clear of fifth-placed Cleveland).
– The Marlies’ home form has been a thorn in their side this season — this was just their tenth victory at Coca-Cola Coliseum (10-10-2) — but this was the kind of performance they were looking for coming off of the break.
“I thought we did a really good job of controlling the play, which is something we struggled to do against them in most of our games,” said Sheldon Keefe. “It is a good sign that we are feeling our way through how to play against them, but scoring and breaking the game open is a whole other thing, and that’s kind of the next step.”
– Chris Mueller broke a nine-game scoring slump by netting the overtime winner. It was the veteran’s 20th goal of the season, his tenth power-play tally, and his fifth game-winner.
– Calle Rosen picked up his sixth point in as many games (1-5-6) with the secondary assist on the game winner.
“I liked our defense a lot,” said Keefe. “I thought Rosen was on another level tonight. Borgman also, I thought, had a very strong game and has played very well since coming back.”
– Michael Hutchinson was rarely called into action, but he remained focused when needed and made the one spectacular stick save. His first shutout for the Marlies was earned by posting just 15 saves.
– Rasmus Sandin’s status is now listed as day-to-day, but he will not play this weekend.
– There was no official word from Sheldon Keefe on Mason Marchment, but Jake Stoller reported on Twitter that the forward will be sidelined 2-3 months with an upper-body injury.
“I like a lot about Timashov’s game here in the last few weeks,” said Keefe. “He seems to be getting better and better. Marchment going down today means a lot more minutes for the left wingers, and I thought Timashov, Engvall and Moore did a nice job with that.”
– Friday’s lines: