Was the officiating substandard? Yes. Was one Laval goal offside? Yes.
Despite the protestations during the game and in the post-game presser regarding the officiating, the Toronto Marlies did not produce a performance worthy of a win against Laval.
It’s become a trademark for Toronto to allow the first goal of the game early in the first period. Sure enough, Anthony Richard put Laval ahead inside four minutes to give the Rocket the perfect start in what was a must-win for a team in a battle to clinch a playoff berth.
Toronto’s “third line” was easily the most effective and dangerous throughout this outing, and they combined to tie the game up 65 seconds later.
Pontus Holmberg found Radim Zohorna down low parked almost behind the Laval net. The imposing forward showed another side to his game by picking out Semyon Der-Arguchintsev in the slot with an inch-perfect pass, and the latter finished off the tying goal.
The defensive fragilities of this Marlies team remain apparent, and Laval should have stomped on Toronto during the rest of the opening frame.
The Rocket failed to connect on a pair of old-man rushes just two minutes apart, while Erik Källgren stepped up with a huge double-save on Jesse Ylönen.
Toronto was then able to capitalize on a defensive error by the Rocket. Nick Abruzzese chipped the puck to Logan Shaw after Xavier Simoneau dithered on an attempted clearance. Toronto’s captain whistled a one-time shot by Cayden Primeau to give the Marlies a 2-1 lead with 3:39 remaining.
Toronto was unable to hold the lead due to a few frustrating passages of play.
The Marlies were caught puck-watching on a poor change as Rafaël Harvey-Pinard sent Richard in alone on goal. Richard scored on the breakaway, but Toronto was furious to a man and the replay showed why.
Richard was clearly offside, but with no review possible in the American Hockey League, the goal stood and the teams were tied at 2-2 through 20 minutes.
The whining about the officiating feels hollow when we consider that Toronto wasted two power plays in the middle frame and failed to score on some high-danger scoring chances.
Kyle Clifford was the worst culprit after some fantastic set-up play by Holmberg. His eventual shot during a melee was cleared off the line, but that’s the kind of chance that needs to be buried, especially in the fine margins of the playoffs.
Der-Arguchintsev — beginning to find his groove after an extended layoff — came close to re-establishing the lead. On a solo effort, he cut in from the left wing to the heart of the slot and had Primeau beat only to watch his shot ring off the iron.
The Marlies‘ second penalty kill of the frame was more akin to pond hockey for both teams. Marc Johnstone failed to score on a pair of breakaways. Sandwiched in between was a breakaway for Ylönen, who again was robbed by Källgren.
The Swedish netminder continued to keep Toronto in the game. Källgren produced two staggering saves just 40 seconds apart — the first on Emil Heinaman from point-blank range, and the second was an even better pad save after he flung himself to his right to rob Jan Mysak.
Lavla struck a late blow on a 4-on-3 power play. Harvey-Pinard struck the iron and had one more shot turned aside before Mitchell Stephens scooped home a rebound with 90 seconds remaining.
Toronto flattered to deceive in the third period as they generated very little despite owning a good chunk of the puck possession.
An almost inevitable defensive calamity allowed Laval to cushion their lead at the eight-minute mark when the Marlies stood and watched, leaving Stephens with the space and time to score on a wraparound attempt.
A quick response from the third line arrived 72 seconds later when Holmberg chipped home a rebound from William Villeneuve’s initial shot to quiet the raucous home crowd and bring Toronto back within one goal.
A power play with five minutes remaining represented Toronto’s best chance of taking something from the game, but the Marlies generated very little in the 60 seconds of the man advantage before an egregious slashing penalty sent Zohorna to the box. It was a tame stick lift, but this was an officiating crew that appeared way out of their depth in front of a crowd baying for blood.
Toronto’s mood wasn’t improved by an official not only getting in the way of the clearance but refusing to move despite the puck remaining between their skates. That allowed Richard to tee up Ylönen for the fifth goal to put the result beyond doubt.
Richard completed his hat-trick with an empty-net goal to condemn Toronto to their 10th defeat in 11 games.
Post Game Notes
– In stark contrast to their parent club, the Marlies are in freefall as they head toward the playoffs. If Belleville loses Friday evening they will fall out of play contention and the final two games of the season between Toronto and Belleville will become meaningless. That will not help Toronto’s cause as they look to find some cohesion before the main even begins.
– Let’s try and find a positive. The line of Radim Zohorna – Pontus Holmberg – Semyon Der-Arguchintsev feels like it brings a little bit of everything, and they found chemistry from the get-go in this game. If I were Greg Moore, I’d keep them together over the weekend and into game one of the playoffs.
– Friday’s lines:
Abruzzese- Shaw – Steeves
Clifford – Blandisi – Johnstone
Zohorna – Holmberg – Der-Arguchintsev
Chyzowski – Slaggert – Solow
Dahlström – Benn
Rifai – Niemelä
Pietroniro – Villeneuve