Two points behind Laval in the standings and sitting outside of a playoff spot, this was a game the Toronto Marlies needed to win in regulation.
The Marlies got off to a perfect start and never looked back in what was as polished of a performance as could have been expected in their third game in as many days.
“Our defense core was great tonight,” said Greg Moore. “Really solid, really good gaps, played well from the middle of the rink. We didn’t give up a ton.”
Toronto’s best player of the weekend was instrumental in getting the Marlies off to a perfect start 49 seconds in.
Adam Brooks won an offensive zone faceoff before Marchment redirected a point shot by Teemu Kivihalme and finished it off with a deft chip after Keith Kinkaid made the initial save.
Kasimir Kaskisuo made three keys saves in the subsequent 60 seconds before Toronto’s penalty kill — often their downfall this season — came up big to keep Laval off the board on the first man advantage of the game.
The Marlies then extended their lead inside six minutes. Joseph Duszak launched a perfect stretch pass onto the tape of Egor Korshkov, perfectly splitting the Laval’ defense. In alone on goal, Korshkov out-foxed Kinkaid with a forehand-backhand-forehand move.
Kinkaid prevented Pontus Aberg from making it 3-0 with a good stop in tight on a backhand attempt, but the Marlies found their third goal with 11:32 on the clock. A strong forechecking shift from the fourth line resulted in the puck popping out to Kristians Rubins at the top of the left circle, where the big defenseman launched a heavy shot that beat Kinkaid bar-down.
Laval finally got themselves on the board through Cale Fleury, and the period finished 3-1 for the Marlies despite a multitude of grade-A scoring opportunities to extend the lead further. Tanner MacMaster and Brooks both didn’t hit the target in tight before Aberg forced Kinkaid into an excellent kick save with three seconds remaining in the period.
The middle frame featured only eight shots on net, but the Marlies continued to generate some excellent scoring chances. MacMaster couldn’t beat Kinkaid on a 2-on-1 break with Korshkov, a strong drive to the net by Matt Read was turned aside, and a shorthanded odd-man rush led to a good blocker save by Kinkaid on Tyler Gaudet.
Limited to just three shots on goal, Laval produced one effort of note — Kaskisuo turned aside Ryan Poehling on a wraparound chance following a turnover behind the Toronto net.
The Marlies’ penalty killing was exceptional in the second period as they saw off two minor penalties and a partial penalty kill at the end of the frame to keep their 3-1 lead intact.
The game was pretty much done as a contest less than three minutes into the final frame. Another good save from Kaskisuo on Laurent Dauphin was followed up by Toronto’s penalty killers coming up trumps — Matt Read led a shorthanded rush down the right side before cutting across the middle of the ice, beating Fleury with a curl-and-drag move, and finishing with a perfect backhand shot past Kinkaid.
With Marlies in control up 4-1, Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s consecutive penalties for Laval didn’t help the Rocket’s cause. However, a goal from Matthew Peca with a little over four minutes remaining went straight to their legs as Laval forced Kaskisuo into three good saves to keep a two-goal lead intact.
The deal was finally sealed by Pontus Aberg, who clinched a 5-2 victory with a long-range empty-net goal with exactly 60 seconds remaining.
Four points from a possible six this weekend was the bare minimum the Marlies needed. After throwing away two points in Belleville on Friday evening, this was the perfect response. The Marlies have now reclaimed fourth spot in the North Division.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto gave up a combined 15 shots through the first two periods, a stark improvement over what they’ve been giving up of late. Offensively, 12 Toronto skaters registered a point or more.
– Mason Marchment scored his sixth goal of the weekend with the opening tally.
That’s his 11th of the season in 22 games, with 15 points in total.
– Pontus Aberg hasn’t found offense as easy to come by lately with just the one goal in his last five outings, but an empty-net goal and an assist marked his 12th multi-point haul of the season.
– Kasimir Kaskisuo improved his record to 13-8-2 with a .909 save percentage on the season. “He played a heck of a game,” said Moore. “He looked really confident and calm in the net. When you have a goalie showing those signs, it gives confidence to the team.”
– Matt Read now has goals in back-to-back games with his first shorthanded tally of the year.
“The penalty kill is coming along,” said Moore. “Rob [Davison] is doing a heck of a job getting everyone on the same page and demanding execution.”
– Egor Korshkov recorded his fourth goal in eight games with a confident finish on his breakaway. He is up to 19 points (12-7-19) in 33 games and is producing more at even strength than he was earlier in the season (his last power-play goal was November 2).
– Sunday’s lines: