The Toronto Marlies snuck past Belleville in a shootout in Saturday’s matinee encounter at the ACC. At the Ricoh Coliseum 24 hours later, the Marlies swept the Senators with a dominant performance.
The 5-1 victory marked their seventh straight win, tying the Marlies franchise record for consecutive victories. Their 16-4-0 record places them atop the AHL standings and seven points clear of their nearest rival in the North Division.
Timothy Liljegren heading to the penalty box just 13 seconds into the game wasn’t the start Toronto envisioned, but neither team capitalized on a power play opportunity apiece in the early going.
Mason Marchment and Kasperi Kapanen were turned aside by Senators goaltender Chris Driedger before Toronto broke the deadlock nine minutes in. A wraparound attempt by Colin Greening produced a rebound that fell for Kerby Rychel driving the net, and Rychel made no mistake with a five-hole finish through Driedger.
Just 63 seconds later, the Marlies doubled their lead. The two Finns combined as Kapanen found Miro Aaltonen down low, where Aaltonen’s backhand-forehand jam play created a rebound for Andreas Johnsson to finish off while taking an elbow to the jaw in the process.
Toronto was swarming all over the Belleville end and could easily have added to their two-goal advantage before a rare offensive foray from Belleville saw Gabriel Gagne hit the crossbar.
The Marlies‘ third goal with 53 seconds of the period remaining was by far their nicest of the game. After Greening retrieved the puck on the right boards inside the Senators zone, Andrew Nielsen took possession, did well to evade a defender at the blue line, and returned the favour to Greening, who dished off to Holl on the left side. The defenseman wired a pass to Rychel between the hashmarks, where Rychel laid a deft drop pass back for Greening to fire home top corner past the glove of Driedger.
It was more of the same from Toronto in the middle frame, as Marchment, Smith, Johnsson and Kapanen all came close to adding to the scoreline.
Calvin Pickard needed to be alert to deny Francis Perron on a breakaway opportunity before a fourth Toronto goal arrived at the midway point of the game. The Marlies made the extra man count as Calle Rosen’s low drive from the point redirected in off of either the skate or stick of Chris Mueller at the side of the net.
A big but clean hit on Kapanen by Andreas Englund enraged Rychel, who attempted to exact revenge but was interrupted by Tyler Randell. The Toronto forward was assessed a ten, five and two, much to the annoyance of Sheldon Keefe, who felt it was a “saw off” after Rychel was intercepted by Randell and never fought his intended target in Englund.
While the Senators failed to capitalize on the power play, they finished the period with their best sequence of the game, creating a handful of decent chances. The best of those fell to the reassigned Thomas Chabot, but Pickard was up to the challenge, keeping Toronto’s four-goal lead intact through 40 minutes.
The Senators rarely looked capable of mounting a third-period comeback that would seriously trouble Toronto, but Jack Rodewald nearly struck on a Belleville power play that carried over into the final frame.
Pickard’s shutout bid was then broken at the six-minute mark after Nielsen turned the puck over deep inside his own zone. Perron set up Gagne, who beat Pickard five-hole before the goaltender could get himself set.
Toronto could easily have doubled their goal tally with the chances they created the rest of the way. Some near misses and excellent play from Driedger (15 saves) kept them from padding the score until Belleville pulled their netminder with a little over four minutes remaining.
That allowed Kapanen to score the easiest of empty net goals to make it a 5-1 game, securing the Marlies‘ seven straight victory.
Post Game Notes
– A three-point game for Kerby Rychel, who appeared to benefit from a change of scenery on a line with Frederik Gauthier and Colin Greening.
– A goal for Andreas Johnsson extends his point streak to seven games (4-5-9), and he’s now tied with Ben Smith for the Marlies lead in goals (9) and points (17).
– Calvin Pickard recorded his fourth straight win with a 28-save effort. After giving up a single goal in each of those wins, his save percentage now sits at .930.
– Colin Greening and Kasperi Kapanen both recorded multi-point games (1-1-2) and there were single assists for defensemen Justin Holl, Calle Rosen and Travis Dermott.
“Our defense has been really good,” said Sheldon Keefe. “That’s the strength of our team — defence and goaltending. We have a lot of depth there. Regardless of who we have in or out of the lineup, we have a real good group there that we rely on not just to defend real well but they’re a big part of the offense, too. It starts with them in terms of how we break out and move the puck up the rink.”
– Travis Dermott‘s holding penalty early in the second period increased his penalty minute total to 28 on the season, which is tops on the team. After the game, Keefe mentioned it was an area in need of improvement but that Dermott has actually drawn more penalties than he’s taken this season.
“He plays real tight and real aggressive on guys and closes early, so he gets in a lot of situations where guys try to jump by him and he clips them,” said Keefe. “He has taken a lot of penalties, but he also leads our team in penalties drawn, so he’s on the positive end of things there for us. That’s something that we monitor and we like that.”
“We obviously don’t like how many he’s taken, but we do like the fact that he’s coming out on the positive end of things. He’s a very competitive guy and has the puck a lot. While he gets himself into some tough spots because of how tight he plays, he also puts the other team in tough spots because of how he gets out of tight spaces and how he escapes.”
– Chris Mueller’s goal is just his fourth of the year, but he’s picked up four points (2-2) in his last three games.
– Sunday lines: