The Toronto Marlies were shut out for the first time this season in the second leg of a weekend back-to-back against St. John’s.
In an uninspired and mistake-ridden performance, the Marlies rarely looked likely to break the goose egg against an IceCaps team that averages over three goals and a save percentage below .900 with Sunday’s starter Yann Danis in net.
Toronto failed to take advantage of key opportunities early before digging themselves a hole they couldn’t get out of.
The Marlies generated several scoring chances in the opening seven minutes, but Seth Griffith, Kasperi Kapanen, Mike Sislo and Andreas Johnsson couldn’t solve Danis. In-between times, Antoine Bibeau made three excellent saves as Toronto killed off the first penalty of the game at the 4:10 mark.
There was little to choose between the teams until the Marlies conceded two goals cheaply in the span of 85 seconds. With ample time to make a play and plenty of passing options, Steve Oleksy put the puck on the stick of Nikita Scherbak in the slot and the IceCaps forward made no mistake with a backhand finish.
A second straight Marlies turnover presented Charles Hudon with a partial breakaway, but Bibeau was able to get a piece of a shot labelled for the top shelf.
Jacob de la Rose added to the IceCaps lead after benefitting from another egregious Marlies turnover just a minute and a half after the first by Oleksy. A clearing attempt from William Wrenn was blocked before Johnsson handed the visitors another gift with a turnover in the slot.
After a double minor penalty from Chris Terry put Toronto on the power play with a little under three minutes left in the period, a second IceCaps infraction 1:47 later gave the Marlies a two-man advantage for a full two minutes.
It proved to be the turning point of the game. Toronto failed to score either side of the buzzer with the 5-on-3 advantage, with the Marlies power play looking static and devoid of ideas.
It went from bad to worse as two Toronto penalties in the first five minutes of the second period led to a third goal for St. John’s.
It was another gift from the Marlies; instead of lofting a clearance or firing the puck down the boards, Colin Greening inexplicably threw the puck up the middle of the ice straight to Chris Terry. Terry dished off to Zac Redmond, who saw his shot blocked before Scherbak shifted the rebound back to Terry for an easy finish.
A third power play for Toronto proved as impotent as the first two but it did spark the Marlies into their best spell of offensive zone pressure after it expired. Despite swarming the IceCaps, the Marlies failed to create any scoring chances of note and St. John’s should have scored once they escaped their zone; ex-Marlie David Broll fired high and wide on a 2-on-1 break.
There was little in the way of a pushback from the Marlies in the third period. They really should have fallen further behind three minutes in, when Anthony Camara raced clear on goal after an error by Andrew Nielsen, but Bibeau came up with a pair of saves, including a remarkable stop with the shaft of his stick along the goal line.
Toronto mustered just eight shots during the final frame of regulation, although Johnsson and Kerby Rychel should have tested Danis more with their opportunities.
After a pair of coincidental minors set up two minutes of 4-on-4, Sheldon Keefe decided to pull his goaltender with eight minutes left to play. The Marlies net remained vacant for almost all of the remaining time, but Toronto still wasn’t able to generate much offensively.
The Marlies’ final — and possibly best — opportunity of the game fell to Brett Findlay with two and a half minutes left to play. In tight with an entire net to aim at, Findlay shot through the blue paint and away to safety.
That effort summed up what was a very rough day at the office for the Marlies.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies continue to lead the season series 5-4 but are now 2-3 against St. John’s on home ice.
– The top five teams in the North Division are now only separated by only seven points, with Toronto remaining in third place.
– Kerby Rychel led the team with five shots but has scored just once in his last thirteen games.
– Kasperi Kapanen was back in the lineup after a rest day on Saturday, replacing Tobias Lindberg. Justin Holl was left out in favour of Alex Gudbranson.