After losing the opening game of their post-break three-in-three schedule, the Toronto Marlies manufactured a much-needed response against a North Division opponent in Laval on Friday night.
As a general rule, matchups against Laval are rarely entertaining. The opening period was no exception.
The Marlies created one half-chance of note through Kenny Agostino, who was unable to score on a partial breakaway, while the closest the Rocket came was on a shot by Michael McCarron that hit the iron before Ralph Cuddemi tested Kasimir Kaskisuo following an ill-advised pass by Timothy Liljegren.
The Marlies found themselves on the wrong end of more than one poor decision by the officials in this game — one such call on Liljegren sent Toronto on the penalty kill just 25 seconds into the middle frame.
The only scoring chance of note fell to Toronto through Mason Marchment, who was unable to beat Keith Kinkaid with a five-hole attempt on a breakaway.
Kaskisuo was the difference between the two teams for the following five minutes as he made eight saves to keep Laval off the board. Karl Alzner was twice denied during a 2-on-1 rush, while Joe Cox was robbed on two separate occasions.
After surviving the barrage, the Marlies earned a power play and cashed in with the extra man, setting in motion a crazy 59-second span in which they built a 3-0 lead.
Pontus Aberg kicked it off with a pinpoint shot from the left circle for his 12th of the season. An extra effort from Jeremy Bracco in his own zone allowed him to send a stretch pass down the right boards to Marchment, who cut across the slot before firing a shot against the grain, generating a rebound for Kalle Kossila to shovel home.
Darren Archibald was the architect of the third goal — his graft along the right boards sent the puck back to Joseph Duszak at the point, where the rookie defensemen showed some good composure in possession to skate into the open ice between the circles before rifling a shot past Kinkaid.
Laval were rocked by that triple salvo and almost conceded another goal before regaining their composure. Jesper Lindgren did everything right as the trailer on a nice play by the Kossila line, but with Kinkaid way out of his net, the Swedish defenseman sent his shot into the pads of the Laval netminder.
A debatable slashing call gave Laval a power play, and to Laval’s credit, they made the most of their good fortune by striking early with the extra man. Evan McEneny scored his first of the season and the Rocket drew themselves within one just 28 seconds later.
The Marlies were caught napping, with the end result being Yannick Veilleux tipping home a point shot by Gustav Olofsson.
Laval switched goaltenders to begin the third period, although it may have been due to injury rather than a coaching decision. It ultimately made little difference as the Marlies rarely threatened offensively.
The Rocket only really threatened to level the score during two power plays, one of which was a laughable phantom elbowing call on Hudson Elynuik.
It took until the final five minutes of the third period for Toronto to register their first shot and it was almost an insurance marker but Marchment found himself denied on another breakaway chance as Cayden Primeau made a blocker save.
It mattered little as Kaskisuo remained stoic, turning aside all 10 shots he faced to carry Toronto to a valuable 3-2 victory. Kaskisuo was rightly awarded the first star for his performance.
Post Game Notes
– Kasimir Kaskisuo posted 32 for victory and is now 10-3-1-0 on the season with a .916 save percentage. As per Todd Crocker, “Kaskisuo is 5-0-0 when making 30 or more saves this season.”
– Joseph Duszak’s goal was his first in regular season play; he recorded his first AHL tally in last year’s playoffs against Cleveland. I was very impressed by his performance in this game — he was calm and assured in his own end with some nice flashes offensively. He deserves more ice-time at the AHL level if he keeps this up.
– Pontus Aberg netted his fourth power-play goal on the year and his 12th in total as he regained the Marlies lead in points scoring with 27 (12-15-27) in 25 games.
– Kalle Kossila recorded his first goal in a Marlies uniform in his third game back — a likely sign of things to come from a proven scorer at the AHL level.
– An assist gives Timothy Liljegren 17 points on the season (3-14-17 in 27 games), which matches his previous season-high during his rookie campaign in 2017-18 (44 games).
“Overall, our d-core had a much better game for us and really steered the ship for us,” said Greg Moore. “They got things going in the direction. If we can transition the puck at the right times and they are leading that for us, we are a hard team to beat.”
– Jeremy Bracco recorded an assist to give him four points in his last three outings.
– Friday’s lines: