The Toronto Marlies went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the AHL for chunks of this game and should have taken at least a point from it.
However, their inability to capitalize on more of their scoring chances, coupled with blown assignments defensively, sent Toronto to a second straight defeat on Friday evening.
Laval entered the game coming off of their first regulation loss since March 12, when Toronto handed them a 4-3 loss. As expected, the Rocket opened the game with a lot of jump, and the Marlies were unable to compete with their pace and incessant forecheck.
Joseph Blandisi really should have scored inside the opening two minutes, but he shoved his rebound effort wide of the post with Joseph Woll beaten.
It was mostly one-way traffic in favour of the Rocket, with Jordan Weal the next to waste a golden opportunity. The Laval forward ghosted past debutant Filip Kral and Calle Rosen and put his effort wide, drawing a penalty on the play.
Toronto’s penalty kill stood firm, and the Marlies grew into the first period from that point on.
Charlie Lindgren had mostly been an interested onlooker, barring one save on Tyler Gaudet at the three-minute mark, but he made a handful of solid saves before Toronto broke the deadlock with 16 minutes played.
The Marlies top line showcased its class offensively as Kenny Agostino and Nic Petan combined to create an opening for Kalle Kossila to drive towards the net. Kossila patiently outwaited Lindgren before chipping the puck in behind him.
Toronto earned a first power play of the game 30 seconds later, but they had to settle for a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes.
The middle frame was a letdown from the Marlies‘ standpoint.
Laval should have tied the game just 14 seconds in, but Blandisi allowed Woll the chance to make an excellent sprawling right pad save by failing to elevate his shot on a backdoor play.
The Rocket didn’t have to wait much longer to level the game, though. Inside 90 seconds, Toronto’s penalty kill was hanging on by a thread when Woll was unable to reset following a save to his left. Caufield caught Woll off guard with a one-time shot from the left circle.
Toronto retook the lead within three minutes thanks to a low snipe by Agostino from in between the hashmarks on a setup by Nic Petan.
The advantage lasted until just before the mid-way mark when the Marlies imploded, conceding two goals in three minutes.
The tying marker was an indictment of Toronto’s defensive fragility in this game. The sequence started with Woll, who has often struggled to handle the puck, turning over possession. Woll scrambled back to his crease, but the five Marlies skaters never fully reset, and Caufield walked around Kosilla before Xavier Ouellet jumped on a loose puck at the back door to tie the game.
A turnover high in the offensive zone then created the rush that led to the Rocket’s go-ahead goal. Mac Hollowell was caught flat-footed in the neutral zone, allowing Ryan Poehling to work a give-and-go with Balndisi that sent Poehling in alone on goal for a tidy finish.
The Marlies created one chance of note to tie the game before the second intermission, but Justin Brazeau failed to lift the puck over a prone Lindgren.
Toronto leveled proceedings 25 seconds into the final frame when Lindgren bobbled Kossila’s shot with his glove and Kenny Agostino capitalized by the side of the net.
The Marlies then appeared to have grabbed the lead on a terrific shot from Timothy Liljegren, but it was waved off on a questionable high-sticking call.
The game-winning goal arrived with a little over ten minutes remaining, and it was a bit of a gift for the debuting rookie Cole Caufield.
Nic Petan’s speculative pass into a dangerous spot in the offensive zone was cut out easily by Gustav Olofsson, and with every skater in blue now the wrong side of the puck, Laval’s rookie was off to the races all alone. Caufield put his first effort into Woll’s right pad, but the rebound was back on his stick in a flash and the Hobey Baker winner finished on the second effort.
Yannick Veilleux sewed up the victory for Laval with an empty-net goal to make it a 5-3 final.
Post Game Notes
– This marks the ninth occasion in 21 games that Toronto has given up four or more goals this season.
– Joseph Woll has given up 10 goals on 50 shots in his last two outings. His save percentage has plummetted to .878, which is essentially what he posted through 32 games last season. Every time Woll leaves his crease to stick-handle the puck, there is a lack of confidence on his part as to what play to make, which feeds into the lack of certainty of his teammates in those situations.
– Kenny Agostino extended his goal streak to three games and his point streak to seven with a three-point haul (2-1-3).
– Nic Petan registered three assists, but his play on the game-winner is one he will want back, forcing a pass into a bad spot with the game tied at 3-3.
– Kalle Kossila’s three points (1-2-3) was just his second multi-point haul of the season.
He’s now up to three goals and 12 points through 15 games.
– Greg Moore confirmed Joey Anderson missed the game due to a “head thing” and was out for precautionary reasons.
– Friday’s lines:
Agostino – Kossila – Petan
Robertson – SDA – McKenna
Chartier – Gaudet – Brazeau
Clune – Conrad – Green
Kivihalme – Liljegren
Kral – Rosen
Hoefenmayer – Hollowell