The Toronto Marlies’ struggling offense finally broke through on Wednesday night in Manitoba, snapping a four-game losing skid in the process.
Toronto wasn’t able to dominate the play as they did Tuesday evening — partially due to penalty trouble in the first half of the game — but they stuck to their task throughout and got a much-needed result.
The Marlies created the first opportunity two minutes in when a swift passing movement ended with Andreas Johnsson unable to hit the target.
After Kevin Czuczman brought the first save out of Jhonas Enroth 4:30 into the game, an error by Andrew Nielsen presented the puck to Scott Glennie, but Toronto’s veteran goaltender bailed out his rookie teammate.
Toronto found the opening goal less than a minute later. Dmytro Timashov showed tenacity to win possession back after a wayward pass before driving into the offensive zone. Pulling up at the top of the left circle, Timashov was patient before firing past Eric Comrie, who appeared to be screened by one of his own defensemen.
Byron Froese almost doubled the lead on the shift following the goal, but his one-time effort was well saved by Comrie. The next chance came courtesy of a long outlet pass from Frank Corrado, who sent Milan Michalek in on goal. The veteran forward lost the handle as he stretched for full control of the puck.
Colin Greening was sent to the box with 12 minutes played and it nearly proved costly when Chase De Leo found himself with acres of space in the right circle, but Enroth got a piece of his blocker on the far-side attempt.
Toronto was unfortunate not to score shorthanded on the same penalty kill. Kasperi Kapanen showcased electric speed as he skated past every single Manitoba player before appearing to beat Comrie. As he released the shot, a Moose player crashed into the net and knocked it off its moorings. There was no review and no penalty assessed, much to the dismay of Marlies captain Andrew Campbell.
Back at even strength, the Moose leveled the score after a fast breakout led to a pretty give-and-go finish. Glennie and De Leo combined, with the former finishing off his eighth of the season.
With three minutes left in the period, the Marlies were guilty of puck watching down low, allowing Brandon Tanev an excellent chance alone out front that Enroth did well to hang onto.
Rinat Valiev was assessed a double minor for high-sticking on the play, but Toronto’s penalty kill remained steadfast through to the end of the first period and into the second.
The Moose registered more shots through 20 minutes than they managed in the entirety of the previous night’s game (18 vs. 17).
A five-hole attempt from Johnsson proved Toronto’s best chance at even strength in a middle frame beset by penalties.
Enroth was guilty of a trip before Froese took a hooking penalty to deny a breakaway for the Moose. Manitoba pulled ahead on the second opportunity off of a set play; Czuczman fired a shot deliberately wide and the rebound off of the end boards ricocheted through the blue paint and behind Enroth. Glennie reacted quicker than anyone else to slot home the go-ahead marker.
Toronto should have had a powerplay afterward but Timashov took a penalty seconds after Patrice Cormier did, creating a 4-on-4 situation instead.
The Marlies penalty kill was once again back to work with eight minutes left in the period after Greening made his second visit to the box. It was the Marlies PK units’ best effort of the game as they completely shut down the Manitoba powerplay.
On their first powerplay of the game with a little over three minutes left to play in the second period, Toronto needed just 23 seconds to bring themselves level. Brendan Leipsic entered the Moose zone with speed after taking a pass from Kasperi Kapanen. Driving through the middle of the Manitoba defense, Leipsic finished with aplomb, beating Comrie all ends up with a slick backhand effort.
The thought of not trailing through two periods of play for once seemed to spur the Marlies on for the remainder of the middle frame. Michalek should have done better than to fire into the midsection of Comrie after a nice move around his man opened up space in the slot.
The Moose were hemmed in their own zone for the final minute by a rampant Marlies team. While unable to find the killer pass or shot, Toronto managed to draw a penalty heading into on the third.
A little casual with the extra man to begin the final frame, the Marlies were fortunate not to allow a shorthanded goal, with Tanev again denied by Enroth.
Toronto responded by dominating Manitoba at even strength up until the midway mark of the period. The go-ahead goal came just five minutes in, although it was questionable whether it should’ve stood. After Campbell and Nielsen played pitch and catch at the blue line, Campbell let fly and Tobias Lindberg tipped the puck past Comrie while crashing the net. It was borderline goaltender interference, but — with no review possible in the AHL — Toronto caught a long-overdue break.
Unable to score on eight powerplay opportunities the previous evening, Toronto broke through with their second goal on the man advantage at the eight-minute mark of the final frame. Nielsen’s slapshot from the point was tipped in by an unguarded Kerby Rychel in front.
Manitoba was gifted a way back into the game at the midway point courtesy of an error by Jhonas Enroth. The Marlies goaltender came out behind net to clear the puck and never fully got himself back into position. From a bad angle on the right side boards, Scott Kosmachuk threw the puck on net that beat Enroth at his far post.
It nearly went from bad to worse for Enroth a minute later — a shot from De Leo handcuffed the goaltender, bounced through the blue paint and clipped the outside of the post, with Kosmachuk unable to corral the rebound.
Having soaked up a spell of pressure from their hosts, the Marlies began to assert themselves on the game again. With time winding down, Toronto’s forecheck was disrupting Manitoba’s zone exits and hemming the hosts in their own end.
With Comrie pulled from the Moose net, the game should have been over with a minute left to play. After a prolonged battle along the end boards, Kapanen came away with the puck and opted to shoot before crossing the center line. The Finnish winger missed the net and brought unnecessary pressure on his team due to the icing.
Toronto won the resulting faceoff but needed to dodge one final bullet with 15 seconds remaining. A low shot from Kosmachuk yielded a big rebound off of the right pad of Enroth, who was relieved to see the puck elude Brendan Lemieux.
Post Game Notes
– This was the first time Toronto has scored more than two goals since their last win against Albany five games ago.
– After allowing 18 shots in the opening period, Toronto limited Manitoba to 15 in the following 40 minutes. The overall shot count favoured the Marlies 35-33.
– Special teams were again the difference between these two teams. Toronto’s penalty kill went 5 for 6 while the powerplay netted twice on three opportunities.
– Jhonas Enroth made 30 saves and collected the win, but inexplicably nearly cost Toronto the lead late in the game.
– By his own admission, Andrew Nielsen played a poor game Tuesday night. Outside of an early error, he was better defensively in this game while recording his second three-point game of the season.
– Dmytro Timashov scored just his fourth goal of the season, but his last three have come in the last nine outings.
– A pair of assists for Kasperi Kapanen takes his points tally to 30. He also extended his point streak to six games. Brendan Leipsic also hit the 30 point mark with his ninth goal of the season.
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet – Marlies 4 vs. Moose 3