This was something of a must-have game for the Toronto Marlies as they look to put themselves back into the playoff picture this weekend.
Struggling for offense throughout their four-game losing slide, a visit with the 30th-placed Hartford Wolf Pack provided an opportunity for the Marlies to grab some momentum at the start of a six-game road trip. There have been plenty of goals scored between these two teams in the season series and this fourth and final meeting did not disappoint in that respect.
The start of the game set the tone as the teams combined for three goals in the opening nine minutes.
Seconds after Travis Dermott fully tested Brandon Halverson on Toronto’s first shot of the game, the Marlies drew a powerplay and opened the scoring. Kerby Rychel was denied after a tic-tac-toe play involving Byron Froese and Andreas Johnsson, but the rebound popped out into the slot and into the path of Andrew Nielsen, who finished through the five hole of Halverson.
The Marlies struggled after netting the first goal as the Wolf Pack pressed hard in response. Hartford was rewarded with a powerplay, although the Marlies nearly scored while shorthanded — Tony Cameranesi led a breakaway from his own blue line, but he was always stumbling and never in full control as he released his shot. Halverson got a piece of the shot and got some help from his post to keep the puck out.
Andrew Nielsen scored his second of the period at the nine-minute mark, this time at even strength. After taking a drop pass from Colin Greening at the top of the left circle, the rookie defenseman beat Halverson glove side with his trademark heavy shot.
The Wolf Pack halved the deficit just 22 seconds later as Toronto’s defensive woes resurfaced. Justin Holl was guilty of turning the puck over directly to Steven Fogarty and the Hartford centreman beat Garret Sparks with a one-timer.
That set the tone for the remainder of the opening frame as turnovers from the Marlies presented the Wolf Pack with a host of opportunities. Chris Brown struck iron and Sparks made a good save to deny Robin Kovacs, while Cristoval Nieves and Allan McPherson missed the target from promising positions.
Dmytro Timashov drew a penalty in the dying seconds of the opening frame, sending Toronto a man advantage at the start of the second. The middle 20 featured six goals, beginning with the Marlies 21 seconds in on the powerplay. From the right circle, Byron Froese whistled a shot on net that was tipped home by Johnsson to put the Marlies up 3-1.
80 seconds later, Toronto scored their fourth. The line of Moore, Cameranesi and Clune put in a terrific shift and were rewarded for their work winning battles along the wall after Moore fired home on a one-timer via an excellent pass from Clune.
That chased Halverson from the Wolf Pack net, where he was replaced by Mackenzie Skapski. It had the desired effect as far as Hartford was concerned as they tallied the third goal of the period with less than five minutes played. Toronto coughed up the puck in their own end and Nieves made them pay to pull back within two.
A third powerplay for the Marlies provided an opportunity to regain a three-goal lead but the visitors again jumped on some poor puck management from Toronto. Mat Bodie stole the puck away after one drop pass too many by the Marlies, and — after faking a wraparound attempt — he teed up Nieves for a shorthanded goal and his second of the game.
The Marlies needed an answer and it came seven seconds later on the same powerplay. Brett Findlay beat Skapski with a low shot before colliding with the goaltender for his first AHL goal of the season.
After a whole ten minutes without either team adding to the score line, the Rychel, Findlay and Faille line caused havoc in Hartford’s zone leading to Toronto‘s sixth of the night. Winning possession on another heavy forecheck, Rychel set up Findlay with a fantastic pass and Findlay’s one-time shot from the slot gave Skapski no chance.
Just 2:20 into the third period, the Marlies tallied for a seventh time and put the game out of reach. Eric Faille received an outlet pass on the right wing and drove to the net hard, forcing Skapski into a well-timed poke check save. The play wasn’t dead, however, and Findlay tipped home a pass from Faille in front to record his first professional hat trick.
Hartford didn’t give up the ghost despite falling behind by four goals and came close through Tanner Glass, whose shot hit the iron at the six-minute mark.
A powerplay with eight minutes to go was the Wolf Pack’s last real chance of getting themselves back into the game, but the Marlies stood firm and were looking to run down the clock from that point on.
Sparks, probably a little unfortunate to have allowed three goals by this point, could do nothing about Hartford’s fourth goal with exactly one minute remaining. A shot from the blue line by Steven Kampfer clipped Matt Carey standing in front as he provided an effective screen.
This was far from the Toronto Marlies best effort of the season, but they found a way to create some offense without their best player and ended the losing skid in the process.
Post Games Notes
– Toronto’s powerplay went three for four but did concede a shorthanded marker.
– The victory was only Toronto’s sixth on the road this year.
– Seven goals is the most Toronto has managed in a single game this season.
– Brett Findlay’s hat trick marked his first goals and points of the season.
– Kerby Rychel enjoyed himself on a line with two Solar Bears callups in Faille and Findlay, helping himself to four assists, ending a four-game pointless streak.
– Andrew Nielsen helped himself to the third three-point game of the season with two goals and a helper.
– Trevor Moore recorded his first multi-point game as a professional (1g,1a). His line alongside Tony Cameranesi and Rich Clune was a threat all game long.
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet – Toronto 7 vs. Hartford 4