Head Coach Greg Moore thought his team showed more consistency and competitiveness in their play in this defeat compared to the one the day prior.
I have to disagree.
For 20 minutes, Toronto showed they could hang with the best team in the Canadian Division, but for the rest of the game, they were clearly second best to Laval in both compete level and execution.
With Ian Scott starting his first game in almost two years, I expected Toronto to be amped up for their teammate and to start the game with some fire in their bellies. Instead, the Marlies were completely overwhelmed in a very uncompetitive opening frame.
Laval built themselves a 2-0 lead in nine minutes simply by out-working Toronto, who could not handle the Rocket’s persistent forecheck.
At the five-minute mark, with all five Marlies collapsed down low, Laurent Dauphin had all the time in the world to wind up from right circle with a shot Scott had no chance of stopping.
Four minutes later, the difference in compete level was evident again in the buildup to the second goal. After a puck bounced toward Toronto’s goal off of a weak shot, a huge goalmouth scramble ensued, with Dauphin credited for the final touch.
The Marlies were fortunate not to concede again before the intermission buzzer sounded. They mustered just four shots on goal, none of which really tested Vasily Demchenko.
The result may have been beyond doubt if Scott didn’t rob Cole Caufield twice after the Laval forward was afforded space in the slot. Those saves, combined with a scoring chance for Nic Petan set up by Semyon Der-Arguchintsev and Nick Robertson, seemed to spur the Marlies into action.
Toronto was now competing on a level footing with Laval, battling for every loose puck and putting the Rocket under pressure with a strong forecheck of their own.
Tyler Gaudet, looking particularly inspired during the middle frame, stripped the puck from Jacob Leguerrier behind Laval’s net and wasted little time beating Demchenko with a confident finish from a tight angle.
After Scott kept Toronto within one with a pair of excellent back-to-back saves on Josh Brook and Jordan Weal, the Marlies rewarded the goaltender for his efforts with a tying goal at the other end.
A swift transition play opened up the space for Kalle Kossila to cut into the slot off of the left wing and place a wrist shot into the roof of the net.
Toronto earned their first power play of the game late in the period, but they failed to exert any concerted pressure on Laval’s penalty kill, and the teams headed into the final frame tied at 2-2.
As quickly as the switch flicked on for Toronto in the second period of the game, it switched right back off in the third period.
Laval’s offense is built on simple plays and getting pucks to the net, and that’s how they scored the go-ahead marker with seven minutes on the clock. A long-range effort from Josh Brooks resulted in a rebound in the slot, where Michael Pezzetta reacted before Calle Rosen to stab home Laval’s third goal.
Toronto was struggling to create much of anything offensively barring one chance at the midway mark. SDA led a 2-on-1 rush and dished the puck off to Mac Hollowell on his right, where the defenseman’s weak effort was easily handled by Demchenko on the Marlies’ 15th shot of the game.
A redirect from Caufield on a speculative shot by Tobie Paquette-Bisson gave the Rocket a 4-2 lead with a little over six minutes remaining, leaving Toronto with a mountain to climb in the late stages.
Greg Moore went for broke, opting for six skaters with four minutes left on the clock. It paid dividends, at least at first. The Marlies fired five shots in 81 seconds, the last of which nestled the twine — Gaudet applied the final touch after Nic Petan initially redirected a shot by Timothy Liljegren.
There would be no completed comeback, though, as the Marlies failed to record a shot on goal in the final 2:39 of regulation, marking a third straight defeat for a Marlies team that continues to struggle to put together a 60-minute effort this season.
Post Game Notes
– A pair of goals for Tyler Gaudet, who is the feel-good story on the Marlies outside of the prospects after his struggles last season, puts him into the team lead in goals (nine) second in scoring with 18 points.
“He is a key leader for us,” said Moore after the game. “He steps up in big ways in big games. He finds a way to have an impact on the scoresheet, and also in how hard he plays against the top lines and on the penalty kill. He does a little bit of everything. He is a guy our group leans on. He brings a lot of character and leadership as a person, culturally, in our locker room. He should be very proud of the work he put in this offseason.”
– Kale Kossila picked up his second goal of the weekend and his third in four outings.
The centerman is third in team scoring with 13 points (4-9-13) in 16 games.
– Nic Petan kept up his streak of a point in every AHL game this season with an assist on the third goal. Petan now has 12 points (4-8-12) through eight games.
– Ian Scott shouldn’t care too much about giving up four goals in this loss. He came through this outing unscathed, made a handful of really nice stops, and looked more comfortable as the game progressed. He looked fairly composed after a somewhat erratic first-period display, and it was noticeable how comfortable he looked handling the puck. Getting Scott as many starts as possible between now and the season’s end should be a high priority for the organization.
“Ian did a great job,” said Moore. “If you take into consideration how long it has been, for him to get into live action in a game like that against an opponent like that… You could tell in the early stages he had some nervous energy and movement, but he settled right in and made some big saves. In the second period, he looked very comfortable. It is incredible how poised and calm he looked back there. It kind of mirrors his personality. For his first game back, he should be very proud of that.”
– Saturday’s lines:
Agostino – Kossila – McKenna
Robertson – SDA – Petan
McMann – Gaudet – Brazeau
Clune – Conrad – Pooley
Kivihalme – Liljegren
Sapego – Rosen
Hoefenmayer – Hollowell