A new year brings new hope, but it was a case of the same old issues for the Toronto Marlies.

In fairness, this was a far better performance on the road than they’ve managed of late. The Marlies controlled the lion’s share of the play, but goaltending and specials teams proved their downfall as Toronto fell to their fourth consecutive defeat.

First Period

A promising start saw the Marlies spend the first 54 seconds camped inside the Moose zone. Ondrej Pavelec denied both Colin Smith and Brendan Leipsic before Manitoba’s Kevin Czuczman was sent to the box for cross-checking.

Toronto failed to test Pavelec on their first man advantage but controlled the first five minutes of play before a barrage of penalties took over the opening frame. The Moose got their feet under them during 4-on-4 play, doing enough to draw a tripping call on Frank Corrado.

Manitoba really should have scored with the extra man and space, but after Czuczman was stopped by Garret Sparks, Dan DeSalvo contrived to fire wide with half an empty net to aim at.

With the penalty kill back to a more conventional 4-on-5, Colin Greening got in all alone on a shorthanded breakaway but fired wide of the net.

The Marlies‘ dominance at even strength drew the hosts into multiple infractions — Toronto received three powerplay opportunities in the final eight minutes of the period.

Tobias Lindberg and Byron Froese were turned aside before Kerby Rychel struck iron on the first man advantage. The second powerplay went to waste, with the best chance falling to Quinton Howden for the Moose while shorthanded.

Andreas Johnsson was the next to be frustrated by Pavelec, who made a fine save to deny the winger’s one-time effort from the slot. In the final seconds of the opening frame, Sparks again had to be sharp to ensure Brandon Tanev didn’t sneak a shorthanded effort past him.

Second Period

As has been the story on many occasions this season, Toronto began the second period on top before a defensive error proved costly. Trevor Moore and Greening came within inches of combining for a goal and kept the cycle alive to allow Frank Corrado to let rip an effort on net that forced Pavelec into an awkward shoulder save.

On the following faceoff, another shot from Corrado hit Froese in front and fell to Tobias Lindberg, who was denied by an excellent glove save by Pavelec.

Andrew Nielsen’s continued issues taking care of the puck cost the Marlies three minutes into the period. After a turnover just outside of his own zone allowed the Moose a 3-on-2 break, Chase De Leo shot fired back across Sparks from the right circle to open the scoring. That was just the fifth shot on net for Manitoba and their first of the middle frame.

To their credit, Toronto responded within 29 seconds. After Andreas Johnsson won a battle on the right side boards inside the Moose zone, Kapanen immediately directed the puck towards the blue paint, where Smith applied the faintest of touches with the toe of his stick to beat Pavelec.

It was no less than the Marlies deserved. After strong play sent Toronto to yet another powerplay, Leipsic drove down the left side and would have found Froese in the slot if not for a trailing stick.

A slashing penalty was assessed to Brendan Lemieux but the man advantage was cut short by a charging call on Andrew Nielsen. That seemed to spark a chain reaction as Toronto took three consecutive minor penalties.

Manitoba was flying on the first shortened powerplay but was unable to find the clinical pass or shot. However, on a second opportunity after surviving a shorthanded attempt by Kapanen, the Moose found their breakthrough: A blast from the top of the circle by Jimmy Lodge beat Sparks, with Brendan Lemieux providing an excellent screen in front.

After Sparks denied Kyle Connor on Manitoba’s third straight man advantage to keep Toronto within striking distance, the game turned nasty. Andrew Campbell was guilty of a kneeing penalty but it was offset by JC Lipon’s retaliatory cross-check. Nothing was doing during 4-on-4 action before all hell broke loose with a little under two minutes remaining.

After Lodge was rightly called for holding, with Toronto in possession of the puck in the Manitoba zone on a delayed penalty, a stumbling Lindberg was clearly cross-checked from behind. No call was made, which seemed to send Kerby Rychel over the edge as he took umbrage with the guilty party. Seven penalties were doled out after a melee along the boards, including a ten-minute misconduct for Rychel, but the Marlies wound up with a powerplay.

After failing to score with the extra man once again, Toronto found themselves in the familiar position: trailing entering the third period.

Third Period

Manitoba, who own an excellent record in one-goal games this season, set about shutting the Marlies down in the final frame. Scoring an insurance marker wasn’t on the minds of the home team as the Moose mustered just three shots in the final 20 minutes. Constant whistles and icings weren’t helping Toronto’s cause as they failed to generate anything offensively in the opening five minutes.

The Marlies were fortunate not to fall further behind after Czuczman failed to test Sparks as much as he should have on an odd-man rush.

Toronto’s best opportunities came via the powerplay; with Jimmy Lodge in the box for slashing with 15 minutes to play, Kapanen and Leipsic couldn’t capitalize during a scramble in front as the puck refused to settle for anyone wearing a Marlies sweater.

Despite seeing limited action in the third, Pavelec was alert to deny Johnsson with a sharp left-pad save before denying Dmytro Timashov with his blocker.

Toronto’s next chance with the man advantage came with a little over eight minutes remaining, but they produced just one chance of note: After Froese fired from the high slot and the rebound fell to Lindberg, the Swede was denied by an excellent poke check from Manitoba’s goaltender, who was dialled in for the entire 60 minutes.

Although Toronto was dominant in possession, the Moose were denying the Marlies anything resembling a good scoring chance by largely keeping them on the perimeter.

With Sparks pulled, there was one final push from the Marlies but Pavelec remained stoic in net. Nielsen’s shot cannoned back off of Pavelec and deflected off a Manitoba player toward the net. Pavelec was cool, calm and collected in making his 34th and final save of the game to secure the two points for the Moose.

Post Game Notes

– Toronto outshot Manitoba 35-16 but failed to connect on eight powerplays while Manitoba scored once on four man-advantage opportunities.

– Toronto is now 1-12-0-0 when trailing after 40 minutes.

– Tony Cameranesi made his season debut, although his ice time was limited by all the special teams play. He proved a positive addition to the lineup in the minutes he did play, showing some speed and tenacity.

– Trevor Moore made his return from injury, featuring for the first time since December 2. He’s another all-action type of player and his line (Timashov and Greening) played an excellent game on the cycle, although the trio didn’t have many shots to show for it.

– Frank Corrado played a steady game alongside Rinat Valiev in his season debut for the Marlies, with no glaring errors to speak of. He seemed to be in the offensive zone most of the time and certainly wasn’t shy about letting fly when given a sight of goal. His five shots on net were a team-high alongside Byron Froese and Brendan Leipsic.

– If Toronto lose in regulation in the Wednesday night rematch, they will fall out of a playoff spot for the first time this season.

Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe

Game Sheet – Moose 2 vs. Marlies 1

Campbell, Andrew0021-1
Valiev, Rinat00020
Loov, Viktor00221
Nielsen, Andrew0041-1
Dermott, Travis00011
Smith, Colin10011
Froese, Byron00050
Johnsson, Andreas01031
Clune, Richard0020-1
Leipsic, Brendan00250
Corrado, Frank00250
Kapanen, Kasperi01221
Rychel, Kerby00121-1
Lindberg, Tobias00030
Greening, Colin00000
Timashov, Dmytro00020
Cameranesi, Tony0001-1
Moore, Trevor00000