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Marlies power play continues to get big goals in 4-0 shutout of Laval Rocket

Garret Sparks earned a shutout the day before he was called up to the Maple Leafs.

Christian Bonin - TSGPhoto.com

The Marlies played their second game of the week, and ninth of the season against the Laval Rocket on Wednesday evening, earning a 4-0 shutout victory. Garret Sparks was in net, continuing his winning ways before being called up to the Leafs to play on Thursday night.

A part of Wednesday’s victory, and their recent win streak, has been scoring on the power play. It was the fourth game in a row with a power play goal, which is a notable turnaround from earlier in the season where four games in a row without a power play goal was common.

Marlies Lines Wednesday

Trevor Moore - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith
Colin Greening - Frederik Gauthier - Kyle Baun
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco
Dmytro Timashov - Derian Plouffe - Rich Clune

Martin Marincin - Justin Holl
Andreas Borgman - Timothy Liljegren
Andrew Nielsen - Vincent LoVerde

Not playing: Jesper Lindgren, Calle Rosen, Josh Kestner

Miro Aaltonen remains on the sidelines after recieving a concussion. He has now missed six games.

The Rocket started Michael McNiven in net, a switch from Zach Fucale who played Monday.

First Period

This game started ridiculously fast. It was only sixteen seconds to the first goal. The Rocket look like they didn’t realise the game had started and let the Marlies take control, get the puck to the net, and well, I’m not sure what more there is to say other than show the clip. So here it is.

That was certainly a wake up call for Laval, and they started to play more defensively and physically. It became difficult for either team to get far into the others’ zone before there was a forced turnover and play went back in the other direction.

The back and forth was finally broken up when Laval took a foolish penalty for elbowing, followed almost immediately after it was over with a too many men penalty. Ex-Marlie Kerby Rychel had a temper tantrum over that one which was amusing to watch.

The Marlies couldn’t get the puck in the net on the power play, and there were a few moments where it felt like simply shooting the puck with it lined up on a 90% chance at an open lane was scrapped in favour of continuing to cycle it. Sometimes the Marlies are simply too risk averse on the power play.

Nothing came of those four minutes, but they would have more power play chances in the second period.

Second Period

Having not learned their lesson in the first period, the Rocket decided to take another two consecutive penalties. The first was by our old friend David Broll and was exceedingly dumb.

The Marlies learned their lesson too, and this time they peppered McNiven with some good shots. Several of them got past him but hit the post or the crossbar, notably shots by Bracco and Holl. Marchment had a chance on a breakaway that was stopped too. Still, it was a better power play outing.

There turned out to be no goals in the period, although Laval gave the Marlies a scare about half way through the period when they had finally taken a penalty of their own. There was a solid minute of possession by the Rocket where they kept getting off shots on Sparks, and the Marlies just could not clear out the puck. Thank goodness for having one of the best goalies in Marlies history.

Third Period

The Marlies simply let Laval have it in this period.

Dicky Clune showed that great things happen when you get your stick out in front of the goal.

LoVerde scored again to seal the win. It was his fifth goal of the season and came on a power play which extended the power play goal streak to four games. The streak actually started back when LoVerde himself scored a PP goal in Belleville on March 4th.

Post-game notes

The Marlies’ have struggled to score on the power play for most of this season, but in recent games it has shown signs of life, and it may finally be turning a corner. Coach Sheldon Keefe believes it also shows how the team sees the sense of urgency behind improving it: “It’s not just that it’s been getting goals, but it’s been getting goals at really important times for us. We won the Providence game on the power play in the last minute, we got a big goal the other day at the ACC [against Laval] to extend our lead, we get one goal here [Wednesday] to kind of put the game away.”

Derian Plouffe made his debut for the Marlies playing center on the fourth line. Plouffe has played at Niagara University the past four seasons and was number one on his team for points this season with 35 in 35 games. Going from Niagara to playing for the Marlies happened rather quickly for Plouffe: “My team got knocked out Saturday night in double OT. I woke up the next day after a long road trip to a call saying I might have an opportunity to play with the Marlies. By Thursday I was with the team.” One day later he was playing in his first game, and Keefe liked what he saw, saying “He skated hard, he was good on the puck, and he was good on faceoffs.”

We may see more of Plouffe soon, and also Josh Kestner who skated for the warmup but did not play. Jesper Lindgren has also joined the team on an ATO. He signed last year as well, although he did not play in any games. I expect that is likely to change this season.

Here is the game highlight package.

Next Game

The Marlies travel back to Belleville to play the Senators on Friday, which should be fun after the testy game they had there a week ago. Next they have a rare Saturday off before they play the Utica Comets on Sunday.

There’s exactly one month left in the regular season before it’s playoff time.