The Toronto Marlies completed a weekend sweep in Charlotte on Saturday, albeit with a less convincing performance than they produced on Friday evening.
With the back-to-back wins, the Marlies finished the four-game season series against the Checkers with a 3-1-0 record and extended their winning streak to six games.
There were only three shots officially recorded by the Marlies during the opening 20 minutes; whoever tracks that statistic in Charlotte seemed rather selective, but the Marlies didn’t hit the net often enough in the opening frame.
Kasperi Kapanen almost scored from a similar position to his goal Friday night, but Alex Nedeljkovic got a piece of his glove to the shot just 45 seconds in. Colin Greening was denied twice in quick succession before a long-range effort from Calle Rosen struck the post.
Toronto earned the first power play of the game eight minutes in but failed to score despite some good looks, and they needed Calvin Pickard to be alert to turn aside Warren Foegele on a shorthanded breakaway.
The Checkers picked up the pace in the final five minutes of the period but were unable to get themselves on the board despite a power play opportunity.
The Checkers carried on their strong finish to the opening period over into the middle frame, although the Marlies created about as many quality scoring chances despite being second best in the run of play.
Sloppiness inside their own zone caused Toronto a whole host of problems in the second period, and the Marlies were fortunate to draw a penalty three minutes in.
As the power play expired, Ben Smith was unable to finish in tight after excellent work from Trevor Moore and Kapanen. Smith had another fantastic chance back at even strength but whiffed on his shot after a good set up from Aaltonen.
A turnover from Andreas Johnsson then presented the puck to Andrew Poturalski alone in the slot, but Calvin Pickard produced his best save of the game to that point to keep the game even.
Toronto’s hard-working penalty killing units kept Charlotte off the board again and almost netted a short-handed marker through the combination of Colin Greening and Rich Clune. Johnsson then struck iron in tight after a nice passing movement.
Toronto was reliant on Pickard late in the period to ensure the stalemate remained intact through 40 minutes — the first time this season the Marlies have been involved in a goalless game after two periods.
In need of a better third period to close out the weekend sweep, it took just 96 seconds for the Marlies to finally break down the hosts.
Swift movement of the puck resulted in Vincent LoVerde finding Rinat Valiev with some time in the left circle. Instead of shooting, Valiev made a heads-up play to wire a perfect feed into the slot for Jeremy Bracco to redirect into the cage.
Chris Muller should have doubled the lead upon the resumption of play, but he hit the side of the net on his initial attempt and couldn’t squeeze the puck home from an acute angle on the second effort.
Some suspect officiating meant Toronto had to kill off back-to-back penalties, the second of which led to a breakaway chance for Aaltonen as he left the box, but the centreman was denied on an attempted five-hole finish.
With seven minutes remaining, the Marlies doubled their lead with what looked to be the first goal of Calle Rosen’s AHL career. The Swedish defenceman’s wrist shot from the point actually clipped the pants of Smith en route to net, however, meaning Rosen will need at least a 33rd game to open his goal-scoring account.
To Charlotte’s credit, they continued to push and spoiled Pickard’s shutout bid with a little over five minutes remaining when Andrew Poturalski tipped an initial shot by Jake Chelios for his 12th goal of the year.
The Checkers pulled their netminder with two minutes left, but the Marlies’ diligence inside their own zone stymied any scoring chances of note. Valiev showed some composure in his clearance attempt to send the puck into the path of Kapanen, who easily out-legged his man to slot into the empty net.
Despite a late flurry and a Martin Marincin penalty, Pickard and the Marlies held firm to secure a 3-1 victory and a sixth consecutive win.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies’ record when tied after two periods improved to 8-3-0.
– Ben Smith’s goal was his team-leading sixth game-winner on the year. Charlotte will be glad to see the back of Smith as he recorded five points against the Checkers this season.
– Kasperi Kapanen‘s empty-net marker was his 12th goal of the year and his third against Charlotte.
– Jeremy Bracco netted his third goal of the season and his second point in as many games.
– After registering just three assists in 21 games, Rinat Valiev has five points (1-4-5) in as many games after recording a pair of helpers on Saturday.
– Calvin Pickard posted 27 saves for his 12th win of the season. After his seventh time allowing just a single goal against, his save percentage has improved to .926.
– Mason Marchment was rested after making his comeback Friday evening.
– Justin Holl was scratched to give Vincent LoVerde some ice time, with the latter assisting on the opening goal.
– As per Todd Crocker, Timothy Liljegren is still not 100% due to illness and Dmytro Timashov was also out sick.
– Saturday lines: