Goaltender Joseph Woll set a new franchise record with 57 saves against the Laval Rocket on Tuesday night, including a 27-save second period.
Woll was ultimately rewarded for his outstanding performance as his team rallied around their netminder’s outstanding play to claim an unlikely but much-needed victory in extra time.
It was obvious which team had won five straight games heading into this contest as Laval put Toronto on the back foot from the get-go.
An early turnover by Nic Petan was pounced on by Jake Lucchini, but Joseph Woll bailed out his teammate with a confidence-boosting pad save early in the game.
The Marlies responded with a chance of their own — a shot by Martin Marincin through traffic resulted in a rebound for Kalle Kossila, but Micheal McNiven responded a split second before the Marlies forward to smother the puck.
Joseph Duszak left the game at the four-minute mark after a very questionable hit from Yannick Veilleux sent the defenseman head-first into the glass. While he left the ice on his own accord, Duszak was clearly very shaken up.
Toronto grew into the period from there, competing toe-to-toe with the Rocket in all three zones and creating a chance on an odd-man rush through Antti Suomela, who led the break, took shooting option, and was turned aside by Michael McNiven.
The Marlies also drew the first penalty of the game, but they were fortunate not to allow another shorthanded goal after giving up three in the last game against Belleville — Jake Lucchini hit the post with his effort.
Rich Clune dropped the gloves with Yannick Veilleux in an act of retribution for the hit on Duszak, which the officials decided wasn’t worthy of an infraction.
The Rocket struck iron again on their first power play through Jesse Ylonen and were left frustrated on a few other near misses. Toronto almost stole a lead to take into the intermission after a 4-on-2 break led to a chance for Rourke Chartier all alone on a backdoor feed, but McNiven robbed the Marlies forward with an acrobatic glove save.
The middle frame was as one-sided of a contest as I can ever remember covering.
It did begin with a Toronto goal, however. Tyler Gaudet found himself in the box within 30 seconds of the period, but the Marlies responded positively. A 2-on-2 break for the Marlies resulted in Chartier creating a screen at the net and Jeremy McKenna’s longe range, somewhat speculative effort finding a way past McNiven.
The barrage began after the 1-0 goal as Joseph Woll was forced to turn aside 27 shots — not a typo — to keep the lead intact. His best stops, in particular, came on Jan Mysak — a glove save in-tight — and Jordan Weal during an odd-man rush.
Woll also rode his luck somewhat, losing his stick three times but still coming up with saves under duress. The goalie’s best friend was also kind to him as Gustav Olafsson, afforded acres of space in the left circle, rang a shot off of the post.
Toronto created just two chances of note: Mikko Kokkonen went close after jumping into the play and picking up a loose puck in the high slot, a promising sign the defenseman is growing in confidence. Rourke Chartier, who was pressed for luck in this game, was yet again turned aside by a fantastic glove save from McNiven.
The shots favoured Laval 39-20 after 40 minutes of play, but the Marlies clung onto a slender 1-0 lead.
Lucchini and Weal were both robbed inside the first 30 seconds by Woll, who was called into action six times through the opening 75 seconds of the period.
Laval eventually scored on their 46th shot with 1:33 on the clock, when Woll found himself screened and couldn’t pick up Xavier Ouellet’s low shot that got past his outstretched right pad.
It appeared as if the Rocket were going to win this game in regulation when Veilleux’s shot took a wicked deflection to beat Woll inside the final 10 minutes. To Toronto’s credit, though, they responded immediately.
Some controlled possession in the offensive zone led to a long-range wrist shot from Noel Hoefenmayer from just inside the blue line. With Tyler Guadet providing an excellent screen, the defenseman’s bar-down effort gave McNiven no chance.
With the game tied at 2-2, Toronto almost regained the lead on a power-play, but Nick Robertson was turned aside by McNiven’s sharp left-pad save. Instead, the Rocket netted next through Veilleux to open up a 3-2 advantage with a little over five minutes remaining.
I have openly questioned the Marlies’ resolve at times this season, but there was no doubting it on this occasion. They came roaring back, putting pressure on Laval with sustained offensive-zone time before a tying marker arrived via an unlikely source.
Martin Marincin let fly with a low wrist shot that appeared harmless enough, but McNiven failed to pick up the puck through another excellent screen by Chartier, and the game was tied up for the third time.
Woll was forced into one final save to preserve at least a point heading into extra time.
Carrying over from regulation play, Laval dominated the overtime period, with the Marlies failing to touch the puck for almost a full two minutes. Tired Toronto skaters clung on for dear life, and Woll made a spectacular save on that shift.
The Rocket should have won the game with a 3-on-1 break, but the luckless Lucchini hit the post yet again.
With 11 seconds remaining, Nic Petan led a 2-on-1 break with Suomela. Despite the ticking clock, there was no panic in their execution as the pair exchanged passes, leaving Petan with an easy tap-in for the victory, capping as remarkable of a win as I have witnessed in Toronto Marlies‘ history.
Post Game Notes
– Some statistics on this historic game courtesy of Todd Crocker: “A few team records last night for the Toronto Marlies. Most shots against in a game (60) in a period (27) and combined between the two teams (94). The 60 shots erase a record from 2015 vs Utica, the 27 eclipse the 24 vs Abbotsford in 2009, the combined surpasses 89 vs Rochester in 2016. Joseph Woll set some new Marlies records last night with most saves in a game (57) which passed Justin Pogge’s 49 in 2006 and most saves in a period passing Adam Munro’s 22 saves in 2009. Woll passed the (49) mark in regulation with 53 saves in 60 minutes.”
– This was an inspired performance, to say the least, from Joseph Woll, who visibly grew in confidence through this game. It wasn’t perfect — at times, he overplayed the puck at the side of his net and he lost his stick on four occasions — but those are just minor quibbles. In a game where the Marlies turned the puck over a lot and were mostly outmatched by their opponent, Woll was the difference.
I hope this gives him a boost for the remainder of the season and moving forward. He needed a game like this one, albeit a 60-shot night wouldn’t have been how anyone would’ve drawn it up.
– Noel Hoefenmayer had been threatening offensively of late and finally broke through with a perfectly-placed shot. I wasn’t aware he owned such a good wrist shot, but it’d be nice to see him use it a little more rather than leaning so much on the big slapper. His first AHL goal was one to treasure, and it came in a memorable win.
– Rourke Chartier ended up with just the one assist on the short-handed goal, but he more than played his part on the tying goal. It was his best performance for a while — either side of the COVID break — as he easily could have potted a couple of goals.
– Mikko Kokkonen registered his first AHL point with an assist on Martin Marincin’s tying goal. The young Finnish defenseman is working things out with each passing game, and the coaching staff is trusting him with top pair minutes.
– Antti Suomela recorded a first Marlies point, Nic Petan scored his first game-winner this season, and Rich Clune surpassed 1500 AHL career penalty minutes (1504) with his first-period fight.
“Rich sticking up for the team in the first period brought a lot of energy,” said Greg Moore. “It’s just setting a tone for the group and an expectation. The third period was more of that with how hard guys competed, battled, and found a way to come back in this game.”
– This was a good performance and two-point game for Jeremy McKenna, who has been a nice find by the Marlies organization. This was his first multi-point AHL haul and his first shorthanded goal. The right-winger has four goals and five assists through 18 games this year.
– Tuesday’s lines: