For the first time since March 7, 2020, the Toronto Marlies played in front of home fans.

It wasn’t a true home return for Marlies fans with this game hosted at Scotiabank Arena, but it was noticeable how the players fed off the atmosphere created by the 5,285 patrons in attendance en route to a 6-2 win over Laval.

First Period

Intent on banishing the slow starts that were the basis of two recent losses against Belleville, the Marlies fired the first three shots of the game without reply. They then broke the game open with a pair of special teams goals just two minutes apart.

Inserted back into the lineup, Joseph Duszak drew a penalty with an outrageous spin-o-rama maneuver in the Belleville zone. Toronto’s incessant in-zone pressure on the opening power play resulted in Joey Anderson finishing off a rebound in tight.

The Rocket had the chance to respond in kind, but they ended up falling behind 2-0 instead. Jean-Sebastien Dea should have scored alone in front but shoveled his effort into the pad of Michael Hutchinson. The huge rebound ended up at the top of the left circle, where Brett Seney chipped the puck past Sami Niku to create a 2-on-1 rush.

Seney delivered a perfect feed to Joey Anderson streaking down the middle of the offensive zone, where the latter finished with aplomb.

Laval didn’t create much offensively in the opening frame, but they should have halved the deficit with six minutes remaining. After they tore Toronto’s fourth line apart, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard fired his effort straight into the chest of the Marlies netminder.

The Marlies were unable to capitalize on their second power play, but they still struck twice in the final 72 seconds to take a 4-0 lead into the first intermission.

Antti Suomela recorded his 10th goal of the season by redirecting Seney’s shot from the left boards to make it 3-0.

The fourth goal owed a lot to Alex Steeves, who didn’t pick up an assist and left the ice by the time the puck hit the twine. The rookie forward’s effort in the neutral zone created a turnover and resulted in a chance for Jack Kopacka and Curtis Douglas. Michael McNiven was able to turn aside Kopacka’s effort, but he could do nothing about the snipe by Joseph Blandisi, who was following up on the play.

Second Period

Laval opted to switch out McNiven for Cayden Primeau to begin the middle frame, but the change of goaltender didn’t have the desired effect as Toronto struck inside three minutes.

An excellent one-armed bank pass from Douglas past a pinching defenseman sent Kopacka away down the right-wing as Toronto out-numbered the Rocket 3-on-2 on a rush. Kopacka’s backdoor feed to Blandisi was stopped, but the rebound in the blue paint was hunted down by both Kopacka and Duszak, with the defenseman credited for the final touch.

With 35 minutes left to play, the Rocket got themselves on the scoreboard off of a turnover in the slot from the Marlies‘ penalty killers — specifically, Alex Biega — and Harvey-Pinard finished in tight.

Thoughts for some Marlies fans in the stands might have turned to an earlier encounter this season when Laval stormed back from a 5-1 deficit to win 6-5. The players might have been thinking the same thing if Louie Belpedio had been able to score on a high-danger scoring chance 30 seconds after the restart of play.

Toronto responded positively by recording eight consecutive shots without reply, though they were unable to further pad their lead.

Third Period

Some warning signs appeared early for Toronto as Laval came out with a huge push to begin the final frame. Joel Teasdale and Peter Abbandonato both should have scored inside the opening three minutes.

Less than 60 seconds later, the Rocket reduced the deficit to three. A slap-shot from the stick of Belpedio at the top of the right circle beat Hutchinson clean — a goal the veteran netminder would want back.

Within 30 seconds, Laval created three high-danger scoring chances of note. Jesse Ylönen and Shawn St. Amant were both turned aside, as was Danick Martel, who should have done better on his breakaway attempt.

With the momentum shifting significantly, the timeout called by Greg Moore was a smart move. It had the desired effect of quelling Laval’s momentum and eventually led to Toronto’s sixth and final goal at the nine-minute mark.

Douglas made another excellent play in the neutral time, instigating a turnover, shifting the puck to Kyle Clifford, and joining the veteran forward on an create an odd-man rush. Clifford isn’t known for his finishing exploits, but he comprehensively beat Primeau with a far-post shot to put the final nail in the coffin for Laval.

The only storyline left in the game concerned Anderson’s pursuit of his third hat-trick of the season. He came close on a couple of occasions, but it wasn’t to be.

More importantly, this was an important bounce-back victory for the Marlies following successive defeats at the hands of the Belleville Senators.

Post Game Notes

– This was Toronto’s first win against Laval this season after losing the previous three.
The teams meet again on Wednesday and won’t play each other again after that until the end of the season. The Marlies will face Laval three times in the final five games of the regular-season schedule.

– With a pair of goals, Joey Anderson reached 17 on the year, setting a new season career-high for the winger. His assist gave him his fourth three-point haul of the season.
It’s notable how many of Anderson’s goals have been scored during special teams play:
six power-play goals and three shorthanded tallies.

– He’s flitted from the fourth to the first line and everywhere between, but Joseph Blandisi continues to produce offense. His seventh goal and 10th assist of the season put him back on at a point-per-game pace through 17 games.

– A player I rarely mention is Jack Kopacka, but I like his game. He puts in the hard work, hardly ever misses assignments, and does the simple things really well. He’s been stapled to the fourth line, where playing with Curtis Douglas makes it difficult to produce offense for the most part. A pair of primary assists was just a second multi-point haul of the season for Kopacka.

– Speaking of Curtis Douglas, this was one of his better games. He did what he’s good at: namely, putting his physique and long reach to good use and getting the puck to more talented linemates. He picked up an assist on the fourth goal and an unrewarded assist on the fifth tally.

Antti Suomela has faced a bunch of adversity with injuries keeping him out of the lineup during his short time in Toronto. He’s a much-loved member of the team, though, and you could see his teammates were really happy when he scored his 10th goal of the season. Somewhat under the radar, the Finnish forward has 18 points in 23 games.

– Getting back on track after a disappointing two games against Belleville, Brett Seney recorded a pair of assists that take him to 37 points (13-24) on the season. He’s well on track to eclipse his career-high of 44 points (in 61 games).

Alex Steeves recorded two assists to hoist himself to 17th amongst AHL rookies in scoring. His 14 goals and 13 assists have been tallied in just 29 games, though, which places him ninth in points-per-game among rookies with a minimum of 20 games played.

– Monday’s lines:

Seney – Suomela – Anderson
McMann – Der-Arguchintsev – Robertson
Clifford – Abramov – Steeves
Blandisi – Douglas – Kopacka

Dahlström – Hollowell
Král – Biega
Rubins – Duszak


Game Highlights: Marlies 6 vs. Rocket 2

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