“His confidence is growing by the day, our confidence in him has been there for quite a while now, and he’s a big reason why we’re still playing.”
– Sheldon Keefe on goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, who recorded his first AHL playoff shutout as the Marlies took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series
Challenged by Keefe to play a better brand of defensive hockey after giving up a host of scoring chances in Game 2, the Marlies responded with their best display without the puck in the playoffs to date with a 2-0 win in Game 3.
Granted, there were moments during the first period when the Marlies rode their luck somewhat. A turnover by Jeremy Bracco with just 2:30 played looked like it might prove costly as Kole Sherwood took a backdoor pass from Ryan MacInnis, but the Marlies snuffed out the opportunity.
Toronto began to create some scoring chances of their own, but Mason Marchment watched his long-shot padded away to safety, Egor Korshkov’s backhand effort from the slot flew narrowly high, and Chris Mueller saw his snapshot denied by Brad Thiessen.
The breakthrough finally occurred at the 13-minute mark and started with a play behind Toronto’s net. With space at a premium, it was an excellent transition play executed at pace that unlocked the Cleveland defense.
After Rasmus Sandin and Marchment combined to exit the defensive zone, the latter’s pass down the right boards sent Trevor Moore away for a 2-on-1 break. Moore showed his NHL class by pulling up to evade a last-ditch diving defensive play by Garret Cockerill and teed up Adam Brooks to finish at the far post.
The Monsters almost found an immediate response to falling behind; Sonny Milano struck the post, Kasimir Kaskisuo denied Alex Broadhurst, and Toronto somehow escaped a melee in their own crease that ended in Kaskisuo’s helmet getting knocked off.
The Monsters generated one more scoring chance before the intermission buzzer, but Broadhurst was unable to tuck home a rebound opportunity after Cleveland caught Toronto on a 3-on-2 break.
The middle frame afforded Toronto a bunch of chances to take a commanding lead, but they were unable to take advantage of any of them. A 3-on-1 rush just a minute in saw Colin Greening tee up Sandin coming down the slot, but the rookie defenseman deferred back to the veteran, who wasn’t expecting a pass back.
A strong drive to the net by Michael Carcone from the right wing resulted in a scramble in front of Thiessen that Cleveland eventually cleared as the Monsters were on their heels to begin the second period.
A broken play almost resulted in a tying goal for Cleveland after Justin Scott got on the end of a loose puck, but his shot found the iron at the six-minute mark.
A second odd-man rush for the Marlies saw Dmytro Timashov attempt to produce a rebound off the pads of Thiessen for Pierre Engvall following up, but the Cleveland netminder was able to direct the puck away from danger.
The officials kept their whistles silent until sending Rasmus Sandin and Dan DeSalvo to the box with five minutes remaining in the middle frame. Cleveland team was on top during four-on-four action without threatening Kaskisuo’s net too often.
The first power play of the game was awarded to Toronto following a ridiculous cross-check from behind on Nicholas Baptiste. The Marlies were unable to exert any meaningful pressure on the Monsters, however, and held onto a tenuous 1-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
Again, the Marlies came out to start the period with some jump. Thiessen made three terrific saves — twice denying Mueller and then Carcone as the Marlies swarmed the Cleveland net.
The following shift from the Brooks line hemmed the Monsters in their own zone for the better part of 60 seconds and eventually drew an icing call as the Marlies had Cleveland swimming against the tide.
A second power play for Toronto was then cut short after Engvall was sent to the box. During 4-on-4 action, Brooks came close with a backhand attempt following a nice give-and-go with Timothy Liljegren, and the Marlies easily killed off a shortened Cleveland power play.
The expected push by Cleveland arrived at the midway mark when they generated a full two minutes of pressure. Kaskisuo was forced into two excellent stops, Milano wired shot millimeters wide of the post, and Toronto escaped unscathed after a scramble in the blue paint.
A terrible hooking call on Carcone handed the Monsters a power play with 6:09 remaining, but Toronto again held firm — the highlight was a tremendous block shot from Moore as the Marlies laid it on the line on the kill.
Roared on by a home crowd of over 8000 patrons, Cleveland laid siege to the Toronto net back at 5v5 play. The Marlies were running on empty — Andreas Borgman and Vincent LoVerde, in particular, as they were caught on the ice for over two straight minutes. Cometh the hour, cometh the man: Kasimir Kaskisuo gloved a shot through a flurry of traffic in front of him to allow a change and a much-needed respite for his teammates.
With Thiessen on the bench for the final two minutes, Cleveland threw everything at Toronto, but they were unable to exert the pressure they had previously. Notably, Moore came up with another outstanding shot block to protect the house.
With a little over 30 seconds remaining, Engvall cleared the danger from his own zone and sent Timashov away to score into the empty net to seal a 2-0 victory and give the Marlies a stranglehold on the series.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto now leads the series 3-0 with a chance to complete a second successive sweep on Tuesday. It’s a feat Toronto has only accomplished once before — in 2014 when they swept Milwaukee and Chicago in the two opening rounds.
– The power play may not have made two chances count, but the Toronto penalty kill stood firm the two times it was called on, meaning the Marlies have killed 15 of 17 penalties during the playoffs.
– Kasimir Kaskisuo earned his first career AHL playoff shutout by turning aside 35 shots.
Kaskisuo is 6-0 with a .953 save percentage through this playoff campaign.
“Any puck that is coming in from the perimeter, he is tracking it well,” said Keefe. “He’s not giving out rebounds. We are on our team to just protect the middle of the rink and not give up anything too egregious. He is going to be there and we have faith in that.”
– Adam Brooks’ fifth goal of the postseason stood up as the game-winner — his second of the playoffs.
“He’s just a confident guy that we can put in any situation — power play, penalty kill,” said Keefe. “When Trevor Moore was up with the Leafs, he was filling in on the power play and we didn’t miss a beat. He’s just continuing on the penalty kill and he’s up over 20 minutes a night for us at the center-ice position. He’s been a real constant for us for most of the season here.”
– Dmytro Timashov continued his record of registering at least one point in every playoff game so far. The empty net tally was his second goal of the playoffs; to go along with five assists, he has seven points in six games.
– Trevor Moore was the architect for the game-winning goal and also came up with two huge shot blocks in what was an all-action performance. The winger has two goals and two assists in just three games since being loaned back to the Marlies.
– Pierre Engvall and Vincent LoVerde registered their fourth and third assists of the playoffs, respectively, on the empty-net goal.
– Game 3 Lines: