In an up-and-down game, the Toronto Marlies dug deep to claim a fifth-straight victory in Laval on Friday.
Despite conceding four goals for the second straight game, goaltending played a key role in the Marlies‘ 5-4 overtime win.
Dylan Ferguson certainly won the goaltending battle in an opening frame in which the Marlies were simply unprepared to match Laval’s intensity level. They were unable to deal with Laval’s forecheck, consistently turned over pucks in the defensive zone, and invited pressure with poor decision-making, including needless icings.
Brandon Gignac should have opened his account just 62 seconds into the game, but he whiffed on his shot from the slot.
To make matters worse for the Rocket, the Marlies scored on their first shot of the game 11 seconds later when Graham Slaggert led a rush and fired a seeing-eye shot that found the far top corner of Cayden Primeau’s net (possibly one the goaltender would want back).
Ferguson pulled off two great stops to keep the lead intact on Peter Abbandonato and Gignac as Laval was still unable to find a deserved tying marker.
The Rocket did finally break Ferguson’s will at the seven-minute mark. Toronto was caught on an odd-man rush after Mac Hollowell made a poor decision to step up in the neutral zone. Jesse Ylönen snuck in behind Hollowell, accepting a pass from Gignac before cutting across the crease and producing a clinical finish.
Ferguson was able to shut the door for the remainder of the frame, although Laval should have generated more scoring chances with their dominance in zone time and possession.
Instead, Toronto scored next to take a one-goal lead into the first intermission. It again arrived just seconds after the Marlies conceded a great scoring chance with four players caught on the wrong side of the puck. Adam Gaudette generated some speed through the neutral zone and put some fancy moves on Alex Green before delivering a pinpoint shot from the hash marks past Primeau.
The Marlies continued to ride their luck early in the middle frame when Ferguson robbed Gignan yet again as Laval failed to make another odd-man break count. The Marlies netminder then pulled off a double save to deny Joël Teasdale, who drove to the net unchecked.
It took until the fifth minute for Toronto to exert their first spell of concerted pressure. Despite hemming Laval in the defensive zone, there would be no reward for Toronto’s efforts before the positive momentum was halted by consecutive penalties.
On the balance, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev’s hooking penalty was the correct call. However, a cross-checking call on Curtis Douglas was dubious, to say the least, presenting Laval with a two-man advantage for 66 seconds.
Toronto’s improving penalty kill withstood the challenge, and Ferguson turned aside the three shots he faced as the Marlies escaped a precarious predicament.
To rub salt in Laval’s wound, Toronto netted on their first power play of the game at the 13-minute mark when Logan Shaw beat Primeau clean with a good shot on a play set up by Joey Anderson and Alex Steeves.
There was one chance for the Marlies to further extend their lead a minute later when Der-Arguchintsev took the opportunity to shoot during a 2-on-1. Primeau came up with a critical save to keep his team in the game.
Laval was then gifted a second goal to finish the period. After William Villeneuve delivered a check and won back possession down low in Toronto’s zone, Curtis Douglas picked up the loose puck but was pinned to the wall and stripped of possession by the 5’6”, 183-pound frame of Xavier Simoneau.
The latter delivered a feed into the slot, where Lucas Condotta made no mistake with a one-time finish.
The Marlies immediately put themselves on the backfoot by icing the puck four times in the opening five minutes of the final frame. Ferguson continued to be a rock, pulling off three important saves.
There was no shortage of scoring chances for both teams in the final 20. Great work from Gaudette teed up Slaggert in the slot, but Primeau pulled off his best save of the game. A further opportunity for Gaudette was gloved by Primeau, who also turned aside chances for Villeneuve and Slaggert.
At the other end, another mistake from Douglas almost ended up in Toronto’s net. Instead of clearing the defensive zone and heading for a line change, the towering centerman attempted to beat two Laval players before ultimately losing possession. Mattias Norlinder’s effort was denied by Ferguson before Teasdale’s rebound attempt skipped across the crease and away from danger.
Teasdale then thought he had Ferguson beaten on a good shot from a broken play off of a faceoff, but a spectacular glove save stonewalled the Laval forward. Jan Mysak was the next Rocket player frustrated by Ferguson, this time by a blocker stop.
The Marlies killed a penalty before surging into a 4-2 lead. Shaw netted his second of the game following heavy lifting and relentless forechecking by Anderson and Joseph Blandisi to create the chance.
Laval almost responded from the restart of play, but Justin Barron’s shot cannoned off the crossbar.
The Marlies were guilty of sitting back while in possession of the lead. They paid the price for their negative play with three minutes remaining when Rafaël Harvey-Pinard brought the Rocket within one.
Laval also benefited from a poor officiating decision inside the final two minutes. Jordie Benn was adjudged to have cross-checked Xavier Simoneau, who threw himself to the ice in theatrical fashion.
With Primeau on the bench, Toronto faced a 6-on-4 for the remainder of regulation time.
Shaw almost iced the game, but his long-range effort drifted wide of the empty net.
Instead, Laval tied the game up at 4-4 via Simoneau, who swept home a rebound after Ferguson stopped Gignac’s initial shot.
With their winning streak on the line, Toronto dominated the overtime period. Gaudette drew a penalty, and the Marlies almost won the game before the power play officially began, but Der-Arguchintsev’s shot rattled off the crossbar with Primeau beaten.
With the Marlies struggling to pull apart Laval’s three-man unit, Shaw took it upon himself to shoot from distance and beat Primeau with a top-shelf finish.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies improved to 7-2-0 this season and are a perfect 2-0 in overtime. They lead the North Division and the Eastern Conference and are second in the league standings.
– Special teams were once again a key factor. Laval’s 6-on-4 tally was their only power-play goal on four attempts. Toronto struck twice with the man advantage, including the game-winner, and extended their streak to nine games with a power-play goal scored. As per Todd Crocker on the broadcast, the franchise record of consecutive games with a power play goal is 11.
– After one goal in the first seven games, Logan Shaw has scored five in his last two outings. It would have been back-to-back hat tricks if he didn’t defer an empty net goal to Joey Anderson in the previous game. No doubt, at the AHL level, Shaw is a top-class performer.
– A three-assist game for Joey Anderson is his second of the season. With 13 points in nine games (7G/6A), Anderson is tied for the AHL lead in scoring.
– A pair of assists for Alex Steeves, who has failed to bulge the twine in six games after a hot start. He continues to be a key cog in the power play and contributes consistently in a top-six role.
– Graham Slaggert opened the game with his first professional goal. Slotted in as the third-line center, Slaggert was notable for his work ethic, strong skating — especially through the neutral zone — and defensively-responsible play. If Mikhail Abramov returns soon, I would prefer to see Slaggert replace Curtis Douglas on the fourth line, at least for the time being.
– Adam Gaudette has a goal in each of his last three games, bringing his season tally to five through eight games.
– After losing the first two starts of the season, goaltender Dylan Ferguson has bounced back with a pair of solid performances. Giving up four goals isn’t ideal, but little blame could be placed at his feet for any of them, and he was under tremendous pressure with the Marlies often under siege. His movement in the crease has been less frenetic and more composed in the last two games. Ferguson turned aside 36 shots for the victory.
– Friday’s lines:
Abruzzese – Shaw – Anderson
Steeves – Der-Arguchintsev – Gaudette
Blandisi – Slaggert – Ellis
Chyzowski – Douglas – Johnstone
Král – Benn
Hoefenmayer – Villeneuve
Rifai – Hollowell