The Toronto Marlies were again guilty of throwing away a third-period lead, but their defensive play throughout the 60 minutes simply wasn’t up to scratch in Laval on Thursday night.
That said, the result was a point earned, which puts the Marlies on the brink of clinching a playoff berth with a magic number of one.
If Rochester fails to record any kind of victory against Utica Friday night, Toronto clinches a playoff spot. If Rochester does win, the Marlies will need to avoid defeat in regulation on Saturday against Belleville.
Toronto struck first with just two minutes on the clock. After Alex Steeves stole possession back to Chad Krys, the defenseman’s one-time shot was blocked in front and Curtis Douglas reacted first to the loose puck to finish off the second opportunity.
It took Laval just three minutes to reply. Three Toronto players lost a puck battle against Alex Belzile before Jean-Sébastien Dea fed Rafaël Harvey-Pinard in the slot past Joey Anderson. Michael Hutchinson denied Dea initially, but he was out of position after the first save and Harvey-Pinard had a tap in at the side of the net.
The Marlies failed to take advantage of the game’s first power play and found themselves trailing 2-1 through 20 minutes.
During four-on-four play in the final minute, Brett Seney skated away from the play, leaving Louie Belpedio all alone in the right circle. After taking a pass from Brandon Gignac, Belpedi was denied by Hutchinson on the first attempt, but the goaltender again lost his net, leaving Belpedi with an easy tap-in on the second effort for the go-ahead goal.
The Marlies should have fallen further behind inside the first five minutes of the middle frame. Laval swarmed the Toronto zone but could not find the final touch at even strength or on their first power play of the game.
From out of the blue, Toronto tied the game at 2-2 with the second goal of the game at 4v4. Phillipe Myers twice attempted to score with shots of his own before circling the net and teeing up Anderson for a tap-in from the crease.
It was a tied game for all of 61 seconds.
Teemu Kivihalme turned the puck over under pressure along the boards, and every Toronto skater on the ice was puck focused. Gabriel Bourque skated straight down the middle of the zone unmarked to finish on a feed from Nate Schnarr.
The final 10 minutes of the second period was a low-event segment of the game, but Toronto found a way through with a power-play marker. Bobby McMann caught a piece of Joseph Duszak’s shot to tie the game at 3-3 through 40 minutes.
The Marlies were the better team through the opening nine minutes of the final frame, although they did ride their luck at times. Corey Schueneman’s shot from the left circle on the turn rang off the crossbar with Hutchinson beaten.
Nine minutes into the period, the top line came through again with the breakthrough. Seney combined with Holmberg, who had his shot blocked before Seney corralled the rebound and teed up Kristians Rubins. The defenseman’s one-time blast was tipped by Anderson standing in the hashmarks, giving Toronto the 4-3 lead.
From that point on, the Rocket dominated the remainder of the third period. The tying goal only took three minutes to arrive after a long stretch pass from Xavier Ouellet picked out Brandon Gignac, who was surrounded by three Toronto defenders in the Marlies zone. Untouched, Gignac flicked the puck ahead of himself and then knocked the puck out of mid-air by Hutchinson.
Some might call it a wonder goal, but the truth is that he should never have been afforded the room to make the first maneuver, let alone get a shot off.
Laval finished regulation by firing eight shots without response and also had an opportunity on the power play to win the game in regulation. Some fortunate puck luck for the Marlies secured them a critical point heading into extra time.
A reckless slashing penalty from Mac Hollowell led to Laval’s game-winner on a 4v3 power play, where Belzile roofed the puck from in-tight after Hutchinson found himself out of position again following a shot that missed the target.
Post Game Notes
– Josh Ho-Sang and Mikhail Abramov were scratched for this game while Joseph Duszak continues to suit up as a forward.
– Bobby McMann set the new single-season rookie goal record for the Toronto Marlies.
The power-play tally was his 24th goal this season, surpassing Josh Leivo’s 23 goals in 2013-14. The power forward has five goals in his last seven games.
– Joey Anderson led the way offensively with a pair of goals and an assist for a three-point haul. He’s up to five goals and seven points in five games since returning from injury and is the Marlies’ outright goal-scoring leader with 26 in 55 games. He’s been rewarded with a call-up for Friday night’s game against the Boston Bruins as the Leafs rest players ahead of the playoffs.
“I am sure [Anderson and Seney] felt as though a couple of goals were in the first were on them, and they wanted to get it back for us,” said Moore. “They definitely found momentum with how they played and responded. They got a goal back for us there, but they have done so much for us all year.”
– Thursday’s lines:
Seney – Holmberg – Anderson
Robertson – Michaelis – McMann
Kopacka – Blandisi – Steeves
Clune – Douglas – Duszak
Dahlström – Myers
Kivihalme – Rubins
Krys – Hollowell