The 8-1 loss to Stockton a couple of weeks ago was an abject performance by the Toronto Marlies, but you could attribute some of it to physical and mental fatigue at the end of a long road trip.
Those excuses don’t fly for this game in the opening 40 minutes against Laval. For the majority of the first two periods, Toronto was uninspired and outworked by the Rocket, who had a chip on their shoulder following Friday’s loss in Toronto.
Laval should have been well out of sight by the time the first intermission horn sounded.
After Joseph Blandisi was allowed to drive to the net unchallenged just 90 seconds in, a brave save by Andrew D’Agostiini and some last-ditch defending prevented the puck from inching over the goal line.
It was only a temporary reprieve, however, after a plethora of missed assignments allowed Yannick Veilleux to neatly finish on his backhand despite Toronto’s numerical advantage in the defensive zone, with no Marlie engaging any Laval player.
The Rocket should have doubled their lead three minutes later. It was a contender for “miss of the season”: a 2-on-1 break resulted in a rebound falling onto the stick of Lukas Vejdemo, who rang his shot off of the post of an empty net.
Just 60 seconds later, Laval struck the iron again: After Toronto gifted Jesse Ylonen all kinds of space, his effort hit the post that was still ringing from the previous shot.
Next, a neutral-zone breakdown by Toronto with three and a half minutes remaining in the period allowed rookie Jan Mysak to saunter in on a breakaway. Perhaps his good fortune caught him by surprise as Mysak’s chipped effort sailed way over D’Agostini’s net.
Laval was deserving of a second goal at a minimum, and it arrived via the power play in bizarre fashion. A shot from Ryan Poehling was partially blocked by Mac Hollowell on his haunches before it ricocheted off of Kristian Rubins and into the net.
Angus Redmond replaced D’Agostini for the middle frame due to an injury, not a goalie pull. The change in the net made little difference in Toronto’s execution level or work ethic.
The penalty kill managed to stave off a third Laval goal, but just like in the first period, it was a short-lived reprieve. On another breakaway, the 18-year-old Mysak made no mistake roofing his shot past the cold Redmond.
Ahead 3-0 against a team showing few signs of life, Laval let their guard slip for a second. That turned into a penalty and Toronto capitalizing on the ensuing power play, where Alexander Barabanov swept home a rebound after Alex Galchenyuk’s shot was padded aside by Michael McNiven.
The flow of one-way traffic began to change with the Marlies now partially awake from their slumber. They earned two more power plays, although they were unable to convert on either.
Just 10 shots and one goal was the sum of Toronto’s efforts through 40 minutes of play, and they were fortunate not to trail again by three heading into the second intermission. A seeing eyeshot from the point by Corey Schueneman struck the top of the crossbar and away to safety as Laval found the iron for the third time in the game.
Cue the comeback.
I have witnessed many come-from-behind efforts by the Toronto Marlies in my time covering the team, but this was certainly up there with the most unlikely-seeming. Laval didn’t do themselves any favours with their passive play in the third period as the Marlies finally found some motivation in the final frame.
There were a little under nine minutes remaining when Toronto struck to reduce the deficit to one. A giveaway behind McNiven was seized on by Teemu Kivihalme, who attempted a wraparound on his backhand. Whether it was intentional or not, it turned out to be a perfect pass to Nic Petan, who netted his second goal in as many games.
Under two minutes later, the Marlies‘ comeback appeared to be dead in the water. The Toronto penalty kill fell apart at the seams as Jordan Weal sent a pass to Yannick Veilleux standing alone in front, where the big man was free to swivel and sweep the puck around Redmond unchallenged to put the Rocket ahead 4-2.
A subsequent power-play for the Marlies offered some hope but little in the way of a scoring threat.
Instead, the pulling of Angus Redmond for the extra attacker seemed to spark the team, and Laval collapsed under the intense pressure. After Toronto pulled Laval apart with relentless cycling of the puck and Mac Hollowell fired home from the left circle, it was game on with 2:44 remaining in regulation.
Redmond was ordered to the bench again as Toronto quickly regained possession and generated waver after wave of attack in pursuit of a tying goal.
He wasn’t awarded a point on the play, but it was a forecheck by Timothy Liljegren that set up the late tying tally. The defenseman’s tremendous effort freed the puck for Barabanov to tee up Joey Anderson by the side of the goal to even the game at 4-4 with 53 seconds remaining.
Adam Brooks had the best chance to win the game in overtime, but his low shot from the slot was turned aside, and Liljegren also had a similar chance turned aside from slightly further out.
The extra point needed to be decided in a shootout, where Galchenyuk, Kossila, and Nic Petan all missed for Toronto. Alex Belzile’s lone goal was enough to secure the extra point for the Rocket.
Post Game Notes
– Mac Hollowell recorded his second multi-point haul of the season (1-1-2) and has five points in as many games (1-4-5).
– Greg Moore confirmed that Andrew D’Agositini left the game due to a hip injury and is considered day-to-day.
– Angus Redmond made his Marlies debut in far from ideal circumstances. It was an impossible spot, but he stopped 13 of 15 saves and made a couple of notable stops in the third period to keep the game within reach.
– That’s another goal and an assist for Alexander Barabanov, whose pass for the tying goal was a standout play. It wasn’t the greatest performance by the top line, but he still managed to find a way to be productive.
– This was a third consecutive two-point haul outing for Alex Galchenyuk, whose performance I would describe in similar terms as Barabanov’s.
“[Barabanov and Galchenyuk] found a way to have an impact on the game,” said Greg Moore. “They made big plays at big times in the game to get us back into it. We have a roster filled with a lot of skill, with a lot of guys on the team who can make plays and impact a game. They showed that tonight.”
– Sunday’s lines: