The Toronto Marlies bounced backed from consecutive regulation losses to finish their road trip on a high with a 5-2 victory in Grand Rapids.

The two sides developed a dislike for one other over the weekend, something that was apparent in the first period, where ten penalties were handed out. Curiously, there was no call on a dangerous play that ended the night for Timothy Liljegren.

First Period

The Marlies had more jump in the early going, as you would expect after a lackluster showing on Friday evening. Tyler Gaudet twice came close inside the opening 90 seconds,

The Marlies were also indebted to their goaltender for keeping Grand Rapids off the board in the first period. Kasimir Kaskisuo made a tremendous save on a 2-on-1 break for the Griffins and followed that up with an equally good stop on a shorthanded chance as the Marlies‘ first power play of the game misfired.

The penalties continued apace, with four minors assessed in the first six minutes before an injury brought a shuddering halt to proceedings.

Timothy Liljegren was in behind the Grand Rapids goal line driving toward the net when Brian Lashoff leveled him with a high hit to the head and a knee-on-knee at the same time. Remarkably, the only penalties called on the play were for unsportsmanlike conduct during the aftermath. Liljegren required assistance to leave the ice, hobbled his way down the tunnel to the dressing room, and did not return to the game.

The Marlies power play had been largely ineffective in their previous two games, but on their second of three opportunities in the opening frame, they finally found a breakthrough.
Leading scorer Pontus Aberg broke the deadlock as his intended feed to Garrett Wilson deflected in off a Griffins defenseman to give Toronto a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes.

Second Period

The middle frame consisted of four penalties, just as many goals, some dubious officiating, and inspired penalty killing by the Marlies.

After a penalty carried over from the first period, Toronto nullified a second and almost scored shorthanded through Egor Korshkov on a breakaway. Just 11 seconds after that second kill, the Marlies doubled their lead.

Wilson pressured the puck carrier behind the opposition net and forced a turnover into the slot, where Petan and Agostino created a scramble before Wilson picked up the puck and scored off of the back of goaltender Filip Larsson.

Toronto’s two-goal lead then quickly evaporated inside a span of 67 seconds.

Grand Rapid’s potent power play broke through despite the valiant efforts of Kaskisuo, who was prone on the ice as the loose puck fell to Filip Zadina for an empty-net finish. The Marlies goaltender probably wanted the second goal back, although Jarid Lukosevicius was afforded all the time in the world to measure a shot from low in the left circle. Kaskisuo made the initial save, but the puck crept through his equipment before Dominic Turgeon reached behind the netminder to level the score at 2-2.

It could easily have gotten worse for the Marlies, who fell victim to two highly-debatable calls that put them down by two men for 76 seconds.

Gaudet, Sandin and Kevin Gravel, followed by Engvall, Jordan Schmaltz and Gravel, were the PK heroes during the 5-on-3 kill. After exiting the box, Teemu Kivihalme made an excellent defensive play to recover possession and clear the zone as the Marlies escaped the danger.

It proved to be the turning point of the game. The Marlies regained composure from there and went on to reclaim the lead with 81 seconds remaining in the second period.

Off of an offensive zone faceoff, Jesper Lindgren went D-to-D with Rasmus Sandin, whose shot from the point took a slight deflection off of Engvall as he provided a screen in front, giving the Marlies the lead after 40 minutes.

Third Period

Despite playing with five defensemen and spending the majority of the second period on the penalty kill, the Marlies were the better team in the final stanza, limiting Grand Rapids to just seven shots in total as the Griffins chased game.

A one-goal advantage is never safe, however, and the much-needed insurance marker arrived courtesy of the Marlies’ second power play of the third period. A tic-tac-toe play began with Sandin and Petan in the left circle, where Petan’s perfect pass into the stride of Agostino set up a one-time shot past Larsson.

An immediate — if somewhat unfortunate — delay-of-game penalty taken by Gaudet gave Grand Rapids a final glimmer of hope, but Toronto’s penalty kill snuffed out the danger and Kaskisuo held down the fort in net.

An empty-net goal from Engvall sealed the deal for a well deserved 5-2 victory to end the Marlies’ Royal Winter Fair road-trip.

Post Game Notes

– The Marlies finished their seven-game road-trip with a 2-2-3 record and remain at the top of the North Division with 19 points (8-2-3).

– In a reversal of fortunes from Friday night, Toronto won the special teams battle, going two for five with the extra man and killing five of six on the PK, including a lengthy 5-on-3.

“It was a point of emphasis for us,” said Sheldon Keefe. “[PK coach] Rob Davison put together a plan for both the 5-on-4 and when called upon, the 5-on-3, and the players went out and executed and battled. Any time there was a breakdown, [Kaskisuo] battled hard, too.”

Kasimir Kaskisuo posted 32 saves for his sixth win on the year (6-1-1). He gave up two goals in quick succession in the second period, but he stopped 16 others with Toronto firmly on the back foot in the middle 20.

“Goaltending was great for us in both games this weekend,” said Keefe. “That continues to be a strength for us.”

Pierre Engvall led the way offensively with a pair of goals and an assist. With his second three-point haul of the season, he now has 12 points (4-8-12) in 13 games.

Rasmus Sandin registered a pair of his assists after a two-game absence and was leaned on heavily with Liljegren knocked out of action for the final 50 minutes.

Nic Petan, another key performer who returned to the Marlies lineup in this game, picked up two assists, taking his points total to seven points (2-5-7) in three AHL games.

– A goal and an assist for Kenny Agostino moves him up to a point-per-game pace through 11 games. His fourth goal of the season was his first power-play marker.

– According to Sheldon Keefe, Timothy Liljegren was able to put weight on the leg that was injured on the brutal hit by Lashoff, which is an encouraging sign. It looked to be a right knee injury.

“At this stage, it’s not looking as serious as it might’ve looked,” said Keefe. “It seems like he is able to put some weight on it now, but he was obviously in no shape to come back into the game. When we get back to Toronto, we’ll get him looked at. Unfortunate hit. You hate to see those types of hits — there is some knee-on-knee contact and some contact with the head as well. It is kind of a double-whammy for the things you don’t want to see. Unfortunate that it doesn’t get called.”

– Saturday’s lines:




Game Highlights: Marlies 5 vs. Griffins 2

Sheldon Keefe Post Game: Marlies 5 vs. Griffins 2