“Keith [Petruzzelli] played one heck of a game. We wouldn’t have won without him.”
– Logan Shaw
“At the end of the day, we have to give up a lot less. Keith Petruzzelli played really well today and kept us in the game. He gave us a chance to keep battling back and find a way to win. If we are looking at our process and how we want to play as a team, we have to make sure we bring a better effort and execution on Friday.”
– Greg Moore
It’s not often that a goaltender is the best player on the team in a game featuring 11 goals, but Keith Petruzzelli stood tall against a barrage of shots in the first and third periods to win his fifth straight game to open the 2022-23 Marlies season.
With a raucous crowd in full voice at Place Bell, the opening few minutes were played at a frantic pace.
The Marlies opened the scoring inside the five-minute mark from an unlikely source. Alex Steeves created a zone entry down the right wing before sending the puck back up high to rookie defenseman Matteo Pietroniro, whose floating shot found its way past a partially-screened Cayden Primeau.
Laval took control of the opening frame after the game’s first penalty sent them to the man advantage, firing nine shots without reply, but they could not solve Keith Petruzzelli.
The incessant pressure was only interrupted by a power play for the Marlies, who only tested Cayden Primeau twice as the man-advantage units were too static in possession.
Laval tied the game at 1-1 inside the final 60 seconds of the period on a goal where the Marlies felt hard done by. Marc Johnstone was infringed on the right half-wall — it could have been called for either tripping or interference — but the officials looked the other way as the offender in Anthony Richard beat Petruzzelli from the right circle.
A penalty to Laval in the dying moments of the first frame meant they began the second on the penalty kill. It kicked off a wild middle frame that neither head coach would be particularly pleased with.
The Marlies struck 56 seconds into the period when an excellent redirection from the hashmarks by Nick Abruzzese in the bumper spot on the power play put Toronto up 2-1.
The Rocket struck back three minutes later after Matt Hellickson allowed a stretch pass from Mitchell Stephens through him in the neutral zone, sending Gabriel Bourque in on goal. The covering Adam Gaudette was unable to impede the Laval forward, who found a way past the glove of Petruzzelli.
The Rocket carried that momentum forward by converting on a power play to claim a 3-2 lead, and the game could easily have slipped from the Marlies’ grasp at that point.
To their credit, Toronto responded tremendously, netting three times in four minutes. Logan Shaw ripped home a shot from the top of the left circle to level the score at 3-3 on the power play, turning the momentum in the Marlies’ favour.
Some sloppy play from the Rocket allowed Toronto to grab the lead during 4v4 action. Adam Gaudette’s shot was followed up by Mac Hollowell, who drove the net after creating the zone entry. After Hollowell was turned aside, Gaudette was on hand to lift home the rebound.
To complete the special-teams trick, the Marlies then tallied a short-handed marker. Noel Hoefenmayer made a good defensive play from the hash marks before sending a perfect area pass to Shaw for a breakaway. As Jan Mysak exited the box, Shaw made no mistake with an exquisite backhand finish behind Primeau.
Petruzzelli pulled off a big save on Brandon Gignac during further 4v4 action to preserve the Marlies’ 5-3 lead heading into the second intermission.
Laval came out of the gates guns blazing for the final frame. Including a power play with Hellickson in the box for high-sticking, the Rocket recorded seven shots without reply in the opening five minutes. Jordie Benn rang a shot off the cross on the penalty kill, but that was a solo foray with the ice tilted against the Marlies.
Petruzzelli frustrated both Stephens and Mysak with pad saves and turned aside Madison Bowey and Joël Teasdale in tight on consecutive efforts. Toronto’s rookie goaltender turned aside 20 shots before Laval finally broke through.
With Primeau on the bench, the Rocket made the extra attacker count. Teasdale sent his backhand effort off the crossbar, and the rebound fell kindly for Rafaël Harvey-Pinard to make it a 5-4 game with 1:42 remaining.
It took 28 seconds for the Marlies to extinguish Laval’s comeback hopes. Marshall Rifai and Mikhail Abramov won battles along the boards to chip the puck clear into the neutral zone, where Joseph Blandisi reacted quicker than three Laval players to chase down the loose puck and slot it into the empty net.
Logan Shaw also had the opportunity to score a hat-trick into the vacant cage, but he chose to defer to Joey Anderson in a more forward position to secure the 7-4 victory.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies extended their winning streak to fourth and remain at the top of the North Division. The power play continues to click, registering for the eighth consecutive game to begin the season. The Marlies made good on two of four attempts, and while they gave up a pair of power-play tallies, their shorthanded marker gave them the edge in the special teams battle.
“The special teams have been really strong for us all season and are definitely helping us win hockey games,” said Moore. “It is the five-on-five play where we want to make sure we continue to find consistency.”
– Logan Shaw led the way offensively for the Marlies with a pair of goals, two assists, and a team-high six shots on goal.
“[Shaw] has been a really impressive person with his leadership skills, how he builds relationships with his teammates, and the voice he has in the locker room and on the bench,” said Moore. “He backs it up with his play on the ice, obviously. He is doing things offensively with how he works and competes, but how he leads by example defensively is impressive as well. Handing off the empty-net with a chance at a hat trick shows a lot about his character.”
– This was the fifth consecutive victory for the undefeated Keith Petruzzelli, who turned aside 42 shots. He may have given up a season-high four goals, but there was little he could do about any of them — two power-play goals, a 6-on-5 with Toronto hemmed in their zone, and a breakaway marker at 5v5. Otherwise, Petruzzelli was the biggest difference between the two teams.
– Mac Hollowell registered three assists for a season-high three-point night. It was also a multi-assist night for Alex Steeves, although this wasn’t his most effective game offensively in terms of generating scoring chances. Nevertheless, there was no let-up in his work rate or intensity, a consistent hallmark of his game.
– Both Adam Gaudette and Nick Abruzzese pitched in with a goal and an assist apiece. For the latter, it was the first multi-point haul of his AHL career.
– A first AHL goal for Matteo Pietroniro was made all the sweeter by the presence of a large group of his family in attendance. Penciled in to play the majority of the season in Newfoundland, he did his chances of sticking around in the AHL no harm with a steady performance.
– Wednesday’s lines:
Abruzzese – Shaw – Anderson
Steeves – Der-Arguchintsev – Gaudette
Blandisi – Abramov – Ellis
Chyzowski – Douglas – Johnstone
Benn – Hoefenmayer
Rifai – Hollowell
Hellickson – Pietroniro