The Toronto Marlies last game on home ice this season ended with a much-needed victory, ending a run of nine consecutive defeats at Coca-Cola Coliseum.
There were two curveballs before this game even began: head coach Greg Moore was absent for precautionary reasons due to COVID protocols, and Marlies goaltender Andrew D’Agostini backed up for Laval as Vasily Demchenko returned to Montreal with Covid-like symptoms.
From the opening puck drop, we saw a very different Marlies team. To a man, Toronto competed hard across all three zones and Joseph Woll put in a third consecutive excellent performance between the pipes.
Toronto was rewarded for their work rate with the opening goal inside four minutes. After Nick Robertson crossed the blue line without many options available, the rookie forward rang the puck around the boards behind the goal to Kalle Kossila, who returned the favour.
With his head up, Robertson sent a pass out into the high slot area, where Mikko Kokkonen’s bullet of a shot comfortably beat Michael McNiven’s glove-hand for his first AHL goal.
The Marlies earned two power-plays in the opening frame but failed to capitalize on either, with Laval creating a shorthanded chance of note on each.
A turnover by the normally reliable Kenny Agostino allowed Laurent Dauphin to break in alone, but Woll stepped up with his first big save of the game.
Toronto’s goaltender couldn’t repeat the feat at the second time of asking, however. After Timothy Liljegren lost control of the puck at the Laval blue line, Yannick Veilleux captitalized on the breakaway with a finish around Woll’s outstretched right pad.
The middle frame began with a heart-stopping moment. In the neutral zone, Robertson lost an edge and fell awkwardly, with his head hitting a Laval player’s leg on the way down. Thankfully, the rookie was able to gain his footing without assistance and comfortably skated off the ice, but he was withdrawn for the remainder of the game for precautionary reasons.
Toronto struck early in the period to regain the lead. This time, the power-play clicked as a give-and-go play between Kokkonen and Tyler Gaudet resulted in the latter unloading a booming one-time shot that beat McNiven all ends up.
Woll had to make some stunning saves to keep the lead intact — the most impressive came on Rafaël Harvey-Pinard after a broken play off of a faceoff left the Rocket forward alone in front.
At the nine-minute mark, Josh Brook was twice left alone in the slot, but the unflustered Woll turned him aside both times.
After killing their first penalty of the game, Toronto struck for a second time on the power-play. An offensive-zone draw ended with a bit of a scrum from which Kossila emerged with the puck and found Liljegren, who faked a shot before dishing off into the wheelhouse of Pavel Gogolev at the top of the right circle.
The Russian forward, earning more admirers with each passing game, finished impressively with a bomb of a slap shot.
Woll then kept the 3-1 lead intact with yet another big save to deny Brook, who the Marlies goaltender got the better of throughout the game despite six shots on target.
As expected, Laval threw the kitchen sink at Toronto in the final frame of regulation. It might have been an easier route to victory had Gordie Green’s wraparound attempt inside five minutes had found the net instead of going narrowly wide.
Woll would face 18 shots through the third period, with 10 of those coming in the final 10 minutes.
Laval pulled McNiven for the extra attacker with a little under five to play as the Rocket laid siege to the Toronto net. For the most part, the Marlies did a good job of keeping Laval to the perimeter. They were a little unlucky to concede a 3-2 goal after a shot from Dauphin hit the shaft of Lukas Vejdemo’s stick and redirected, giving Woll little chance.
Toronto held strong for the final 2:11 to claim a 3-2 victory, their first in regulation since March.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto has finished the home portion of their season with a 7-10-1 record and goal differential of minus 11.
– Mikko Kokkonen scored his first AHL goal, a deserved reward for his improvement over the last six games. He’s one of a few players who would have befitted from a longer look in North America this season now he’s become somewhat accustomed. The defenseman also recorded a primary assist for his first multi-point haul in the AHL.
– Joseph Woll posted 36 saves for the victory. In his last three starts, the goaltender has stopped 127 of 136 shots for a combined .938 save percentage.
– A pair of secondary assists for Kalle Kossila extended his point streak to five games (0-6-6).
– Wednesday’s lines: