The task for the Toronto Marlies this weekend: Take points off an Eastern Conference-leading Belleville team that had won seven straight games entering the back-to-back.
After throwing away a 4-2 lead in Belleville a week ago, the Marlies were hungry to make amends. Thanks to their best players performing like their best players, Toronto was able to take two points with them on the bus ride home after a 4-2 victory at the CAA Arena.
“That was probably one of the best performances for our team in terms of sticking to the gameplan and being disciplined within it,” said Greg Moore.
The Marlies were indebted to a great opening period of play from Kasimir Kaskisuo, who was the main reason the game was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes.
Moments after Matt Read thought he scored a power-play goal that was later waved off, Kaskisuo came up with a big blocker save following a Mac Hollowell turnover that led to an Alex Formenton breakaway.
The Finnish reminder couldn’t do anything about an odd-man rush halfway through the period, though, as Toronto ended up with three forwards the wrong side of the puck and Jack Dougherty finished from the left circle to make it 1-0 Belleville.
The Senators were dominating possession and controlling the pace of the game, including during a spell of four-on-four action, where they hit the post before Kaskisuo came up with another critical save.
Toronto’s goaltender also pulled off a tremendous glove stop to rob Vitaly Abramov with 1:17 remaining in the period. 30 seconds later, the Marlies rewarded Kaskisuo with a goal that came from nothing.
Adam Brooks chased after Mason Marchment’s dump-in, forcing Max Lajoie to flip the back behind the net before Kenny Agostino won an outnumbered battle and sent a perfect pass out front for Marchment to finish off from close range.
Toronto began the middle frame on the penalty kill after some shenanigans took place at the end of the opening frame. The Marlies killed Belleville’s power play, but 29 seconds later, they gave up a disappointing goal.
From inside his zone at the hash marks, Jordan Murray sent a stretch pass straight down the middle of the ice to Abramov, who split the Marlies defense wide open and beat Kaskisuo five-hole for his 16th goal of the season.
To their credit, the Marlies responded by stepping on the gas and utterly dominating the remainder of the period. There were chances for Nic Baptiste and Agostino before the Marlies wasted an odd-man rush. They finally broke through on a subsequent power play after a shot from Brooks resulted in a rebound that Agostino finished off on the third effort.
Toronto continued to fire pucks at a shaky Daccord before the period turned into a penalty fest in the final four minutes. Amid the four infractions, Toronto nosed ahead for the first time during four-on-four action.
A huge hit by Mac Hollowell on Josh Norris allowed Toronto to gain possession deep in their zone, where Matt Read rung the puck around his own net to Rubins on the left wing. The towering defenseman’s perfectly-weighted pass to Egor Korshkov allowed the big Russian winger to spin away from a defender and head in alone on Daccord, who he beat with a deft five-hole finish to put the Marlies ahead 3-2 after 40 minutes.
The Marlies were unable to make good on a power play to begin the final frame, but they continued to own the majority of possession and limited Belleville to next to nothing offensively.
The crucial insurance marker arrived just before the nine-minute mark. It might have been a set play by Garrett Wilson, who fired a shot well wide of the Daccord’s right post. The puck rebounded out to Read on the opposite side, where he made it 4-2 Marlies.
A little bit of penalty trouble disrupted Toronto’s attempt to see out the game stress-free as they were tabbed for two minor infractions inside the final eight minutes. Mostly a passenger after his first-period heroics, Kaskisuo came up with a big kick save to deny what would have been a backdoor tap-in on the Belleville power play.
Targeted since the opening minutes of the game, Brooks was fired up throughout the night and finally dropped the gloves with Christian Wolanin for his first professional fight. The Winnipeg native more than held his own, connecting on a couple of haymakers.
Even with an extra attacker on the ice for over two minutes, Belleville was unable to break Toronto’s resolve as the Marlies clinched a third-straight victory.
Post Game Notes
– The last time Toronto won three consecutive games was back in November when they strung together seven straight victories.
– Kasimir Kaskisuo posted 26 saves, half of which came in the first period. He improved to 14-8-2 on the season with a .909 save percentage, and Greg Moore made a point to note his performance in his post-game comments.
“He did a heck of a job in the first period keeping us in the game and letting the team find it and build their confidence.”
– With seven goals in four games, Mason Marchment has the magic touch in front of goal right now. He was guilty of two selfish penalties in this game, but otherwise, his physicality and overall performance were fantastic, capped by an assist for his fourth multi-point haul of the season.
“There were a couple of penalties I was kind of unhappy with, but he has been playing good hockey of late and that is part of his game, too,” said Moore. “He gets under the skin of the opponent. He has to find that line and not cross it.”
– Seven shots, one assist, and a first professional fight for Adam Brooks. It really should have been a Gordie Howe hat trick given the chances he had, but he looks like he’s back to his best following his reassignment by the Leafs and a subsequent minor injury.
– A 22nd goal on the year for Kenny Agostino leaves him two shy of his single-season career-high. The left-winger broke a four-game scoreless streak, his longest of the season to date.
– Kristians Rubins now has four points (1-3-4) in his last four games after registering a pair of assists in this win. The defenseman has two goals this season and both came in games where he took three shots apiece; I would like to see him unload the cannon of a shot he possesses a little more often than he does.
– Nic Petan is still out due to injury, as is Rich Clune, Kalle Kossila and Ben Harpur.
Pontus Aberg likely didn’t make it back from the Leafs in time and my guess is he returns on Saturday, while Jeremy Bracco remains out due to personal issues.
– The American Hockey League Board of Governors voted yesterday to order the rescheduling of AHL Game #566 between the Toronto Marlies and the Texas Stars, previously considered a forfeit by Toronto. A date for the rescheduled game has not yet been determined. The AHL standings have been adjusted accordingly.
– Friday’s lines: