“The reason we had success today was that the entire team was going and every line contributed in some different way. We’ll need that moving forward.”
Coming off of their worst loss of the season in Syracuse, Toronto Marlies head coach Greg Moore praised a much better overall effort against Rochester that resulted in a comeback victory in the third period, ending the Marlies‘ three-game losing slide.
It was still a sporadic performance from the Marlies, who were grateful for stellar goaltending and for Rochester not capitalizing on their chances in the first two periods.
The visiting Amerks could easily have built a 2-0 lead in the opening three minutes with a little more luck in front of goal. Kasimir Kaskisuo made a good glove save to deny Sean Malone on a swift transition play before Remi Eli escaped down the left wing and rang his effort off the post.
Eli had the next best scoring chance after Casey Mittelstadt pick him out alone in the slot, but yet again Kaskisuo came to the Marlies‘ rescue.
The turning point of the period — and perhaps the game in general — was a fight at the 11-minute mark.
Rich Clune took umbrage at a hit on Kenny Agostino, dropping the mitts with Andrew MacWilliam. Despite the height difference, Clune took the defenseman down, energizing the home crowd and the Toronto bench.
Agostino was certainly inspired as his drop pass at the resumption of play was right in the wheelhouse of Hudson Elynuik, who put everything behind a big slap shot from the left circle that rang off the top of the crossbar.
It took little more than a minute after the fight for the Marlies to open the scoring courtesy of a turnover by Zach Redmond. The Rochester defenseman gave it away to Jeremy Bracco, who found Kalle Kossila coming down the heart of the slot.
The Finnish forward might still be finding his feet after a long absence, but he made no mistake with a perfectly-placed wrist past Andrew Hammond.
The Marlies were now firmly in the ascendancy, and Agostino nearly added to the lead if not for a left pad save from Hammond after a give-and-go play with Egor Korshkov.
A melee followed that near-miss with a pair of penalties assessed, leading to some four-on-four action.
The Marlies took advantage of the extra space as Rochester allowed Agostino to sneak unattended between the bottom of the right circle and the goal line and fired home from the tight angle on a pinpoint pass from the stick of Pontus Aberg.
The Marlies continued to dominate and could easily have extended their lead. Hammond turned aside Aberg on a 2-on-1 break, and on the following shift, it might had been 3-0 if play hadn’t been halted for Tyler Gaudet’s fight with Tyler Randell.
If the first fight of the period kick-started Toronto, the second bout stalled the engine as Rochester seemed to be energized by a brawl that the Marlies really didn’t need to engage in.
Kaskisuo did well to stop Brett Murray on a breakaway, but he could do nothing to prevent the Amerks from getting on the board on their next zone entry. Mittelstadt coasted around two Toronto players as he circled around the offensive zone, fired on goal, and went unchallenged as he scored on his own rebound.
The middle frame was a mixed 20 minutes as Toronto played well for the first half, limiting Rochester offensively while creating a few scoring chance themselves.
Korshkov was the creator of the best of those as he stripped C.J Smith of possession at the Marlies blue line and sent Agostino in alone on Hammond, but Toronto’s leading goal scorer couldn’t convert.
I’m not certain what flipped the switch, but a stoppable tying goal certainly didn’t help matters. A faceoff win by Kevin Porter back to Lawrence Pilut resulted in a speculative high shot that deceived Kaskisuo and ended up in the roof of the net.
For the final nine minutes of the period, Rochester dominated possession, offensive zone time, and the shot clock as they fired 12 unanswered shots toward the Toronto net and the Marlies became really passive and reactive in their play.
Kaskisuo responded well after giving up a goal he wanted back, ensuring the game was tied at 2-2 through 40 minutes.
Toronto’s fourth line put some energy back into the team in the third period. Alongside Scott Pooley and Elynuik, Clune almost gave Toronto the lead at the nine-minute mark, but Hammond denied the veteran forward on a partial breakaway two separate times.
The crucial third goal arrived with 8:36 remaining off of an individual effort by Kalle Kossila. Jesper Lindgren deferred possession to Kossila in the Toronto zone with clear ice ahead of him, and after burning past Lawrence Pilut, Kossila cut hard to the net, switched, to his forehand, and lifted the puck up over Hammond’s glove.
Kaskisuo was forced into one save of note to turn aside Brandon Hickey before his teammates rewarded the timely save with two goals inside 77 seconds.
A really nice give-and-go play between Teemu Kivihalme and Aberg resulted in the latter doubling the lead with a deft finish.
Amid easily his best game since returning from a leg laceration, Egor Korshkov then added an insurance marker to round out the scoring. A speculative shot on the turn by Timothy Liljegren at the point was touched by Kossila before the puck fell into the path of Korshkov, who rifled it far side past Hammond.
It wasn’t their best performance of the season and they rode their luck at times, but the Marlies broke a four-game losing streak on home ice against one of the North Division’s leading lights.
Post Game Notes
– Just four points separate the first five spots in the North Division. This was a big win for the Marlies, who closed to within three points of Rochester but still have Belleville and Laval hot on their heels.
– A goal and two assists for should provide a big shot of confidence for Kalle Kossila. He’s now seven games into his season after a long absence through injury and is beginning to show why he’s been a consistent producer at the AHL level. Pontus Aberg registered his ninth multi-point haul (1-1-2) of the season to bring him back to point-per-game pace through 29 games (13-16-29).
“I’ve been happy with both of them since they came back,” said Moore. “To see what they were able to do together tonight was fun to watch.”
– Scott Pooley deserved his callup to the Marlies after once again dominating in Newfoundland (22 points in fifteen games including 16 goals). I thought he brought energy and speed to the fourth line and consistently made good decisions at both ends of the ice on a fourth line that included Hudson Elynuik and Rich Clune. A glove tap should also go to Elynuik and Clune, who were both equally good and could have scored a goal apiece.
“[Clune] does a lot of great stuff,” said Moore. “Big fights from him and Gaudet to get our team going in the right direction and bring energy and life. He knows what to do to help the team in his own way with his attributes as a player. He definitely leads on the bench. He’s vocal. He always knows what to say at the right time. He’s definitely a really big, important part of this group.”
– He would like the second goal back, but Kasimir Kaskisuo posted 30 saves for the victory. The Finnish goaltender came up huge in the first and second periods when the Marlies were flat. His record now reads 11-4-1 with a .914 save percentage; when you consider how poorly the team in front of him has been playing of late, that’s pretty remarkable.
– Jeremy Bracco put up one assist on the pinpoint pass to Kossila for the opening goal, but otherwise, he was largely ineffective and didn’t register a shot on net.
– As I mentioned in the review, this was Egor Korshkov’s best performance since returning from injury. I expect him to kick on now and a strong second half to the season might put him in line for a call-up as the Toronto organization look to see what they have in the Russian forward at the NHL level.
– Saturday’s lines: