Gagner's Goal Holds Up as the Game-Winner Over Laval
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Saturday, February 2, 2019
Toronto (3) Laval (0) Final
Photo credit: @TorontoMarlies
TORONTO—The Toronto Marlies shut-out the Laval Rocket for a second straight day in American Hockey League action on Saturday. With playoff aspirations in the balance, it was a tightly knit North Division matchup.
Sam Gagner scored the game-winning goal for Toronto (24-16-3-3) in the second leg of a back-to-back versus Laval and the Marlies won their third consecutive game. Kasimir Kaskisuo posted a 33 save shutout performance in a bounce-back performance.
Both teams were well represented inside of Coca-Cola Coliseum as the sea of blue was littered with patches of red throughout. As the action got underway, it was clear every inch would be hard to come by. Daniel Audette drew the first penalty of the evening, for slashing, and it turned out to be a costly mistake for Laval (19-20-4-4).
On the ensuing power play, Sam Gagner pulled up to the left face-off dot and rifled an uncontested shot past Connor LaCouvee. His 11th goal of the season effectively gave Toronto an early 1-0 lead at 17:40. Calle Rosen added an assist on the play to increase his team lead in points among defenceman to 33, which also ranks fifth league-wide.
Kasimir Kaskisuo held steady in the crease for Toronto and turned away seven shots in the opening frame and continued his stellar performance into the second. After surrendering six goals versus Belleville on Jan. 25, the 25-year-old Finn had himself a bounce-back performance on Saturday.
Laval came close to evening the score in the second period but ultimately fell short of finding an equalizer. Alex Belzile failed to beat the figurative wall of Kaskisuo despite having a clear-cut opportunity from inside the lower slot area. It was a chance that could have made all the difference in such a tight-knit affair.
After forty minutes of play, the Rockets held a 21-18 shot advantage. However, the score remained 1-0 in favour of Toronto.
The offensive stalemate persisted into the third and tensions raised as the clock continued to wind down towards the end of regulation time. One goal could change the game’s entire complexion but it appeared impossible to come by. Each passing minute felt like an eternity.
A collective sigh of relief dawned the Marlies bench after Trevor Moore added an insurance tally with 1:08 left on the clock. Subsequently, Chris Mueller made it 3-1 with another empty-net goal with 0:18 remaining.
As a result of his two-point night, Mueller is now the Marlies' points leader with 45 in 44 games.
Toronto has won six of their last seven games and will look to continue that trend on Tuesday versus Belleville.
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