The Toronto Marlies have suffered some humbling and at times embarrassing defeats this season.
However, even during this losing stretch, there has been nothing quite like the degree to which they were completely outplayed and outworked for the opening 30 minutes in this game, leading to the divisional champions taking their foot off the pedal and cruising the rest of the way.
For the second straight game, Toronto gave up 20 shots against through the opening 20 minutes.
Toronto created a chance 70 seconds in — Vasily Demchenko denied Kalle Kossila in tight — but once Laval found their rhythm from the four-minute mark onward, they simply overpowered the Marlies.
It was one-way traffic as Toronto either turned the puck over in the defensive and neutral zones or simply gave possession away with a dump-and-chase brand of hockey that was completely futile.
Veini Vehviläinen was left to face a barrage of shots and did an outstanding job of keeping the Rocket off the board until his resolve was broken at the 16-minute mark. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard was presented with essentially a tap-in on a feed from Jesse Ylönen after Laval won yet another battle in the Toronto zone.
The Rocet doubled their lead two minutes later when a huge open-ice hit by Cale Fleury on Nic Petan resulted in an odd-man that Yannick Veilleux took full advantage of to net his 12th on the year.
Ylönen made it 3-0 a little over three minutes into the middle frame after Vehviläinen was unable to hold a chipped pass at the top of his blue paint. It was a misplay from the Finn, but you could hardly blame the overworked netminder at this point.
By the six-minute mark of the second period, the shot-clock was 29-6 in favour of Laval, and Toronto looked incapable of recording a shot on target, let alone actually scoring a goal at this juncture.
Almost 18 minutes of play elapsed between Toronto’s sixth shot of the game in the first period and the seventh that was taken by Scott Pooley past the midway point of the second period.
The Marlies recorded five consecutive shots without reply to end the middle frame, but it was clear the Rocket had eased up at this point. This game was anything but a contest.
I would imagine that Laval Head Coach Joel Bouchard was furious at his team’s effort through the second half of the game. Having already sealed the divisional championship and in possession of a 3-0 lead against an opponent on the ropes, Laval sat back and Toronto gained a foothold in the third period.
Toronto’s fourth line created the team’s first goal — Hudson Elynuik teed up Scott Pooley for a one-time blast from the top of the right circle that deflected in off Rich Clune.
The result was put in doubt for the Rocket with a little over two minutes remaining. It was a bizarre play as the puck ended up bouncing to the right following an offensive zone face-off in the left circle. Nic Petan was the first to react and took advantage with an excellent top-shelf finish on his backhand.
Laurent Dauphin’s empty-net tally sealed the victory for Laval in the final minute, sending Toronto to a ninth consecutive defeat on home ice.
Post Game Notes
Just three statistics for these notes:
– Veini Vehviläinen stopped 36 of 39 shots and ensured the deficit wasn’t as bad as it should have been through 30 minutes.
– Toronto has allowed 207 shots through the last five games, albeit two of those went to overtime.
– In their last 10 games, Toronto has allowed 45 goals. Overall, the goals against tally stands at 104 through 29 games.
I feel like a broken record writing these recaps this season. Constructive criticism always borders around the same fixable issues (turnovers/compete/missed assignments) that have never been resolved.
“Puck management, turnovers in the middle of the rink, turnovers at the blue line…,” said Greg Moore. “The effort was there. We just didn’t manage playing a tough opponent. We fueled their offense. There is still some common mistakes the group is fighting through, but the real encouraging thing is the second half. To not give up on the game and to battle back was encouraging.”
This was the first of five straight games between Toronto and Laval to finish the season series.
– Tuesday’s lines: