The Toronto Marlies may have seen their winning streak end, but it was certainly not through a lack of effort despite a tough scheduling situation.
Playing their third game in as many days against a different opponent each night, Toronto left it all on the ice but fell in a shootout for the first time this season.
In comparison, the Sound Tigers were a well-rested team, having only played once over the weekend (at home), and certainly had the better legs in the opening frame.
An early power play for the Marlies almost resulted in a shorthanded goal as Timothy Liljegren was guilty of turning the puck over in front of his net, but Garret Sparks bailed him out by denying John Stevens.
Josh Ho-Sang and Travis St. Denis also had chances via giveaways from Toronto but they were unable to make them count.
A bullet of a wrist shot from Kasperi Kapanen was turned aside following an offensive face-off win before Andreas Johnsson’s shot got past Kristers Gudlevskis only for the puck to trickle wide of the post.
A good penalty kill from Toronto ensured the game was scoreless through 20 minutes and allowed them to reset at the intermission.
Bridgeport was back on their heels in the second period as Toronto came out fast with a couple of attempts on goal inside the opening minute and generated a really impressive push throughout the middle frame.
Bridgeport’s first attempt came on an early Marlies power play with Liljegren guilty of another giveaway, but Sparks was imperious once again.
How the Marlies‘ top line failed to score in this game is anyone’s guess with the number of quality scoring chances they generated in this game. Kapanen was denied on the breakaway and then hit the crossbar before Johnsson was turned aside on a second opportunity. After a strong drive to the net, Johnsson set up Miro Aaltonen, who somehow missed the target.
A scrambling Sound Tigers team finally created a chance off the rush, but St. Denis fired wide of the net from a tight angle on a feed from Ho-Sang.
The Marlies once again found themselves on the penalty kill late in the period but again hung tough while down a man. Following Aaltonen’s exit from the box, both teams had excellent chances to break the deadlock, with the Finnish center firing wide from the slot during a melee in front of the Sound Tigers net.
Toronto failed to muster much offense during the final 20 minutes of regulation and were thankful to another stellar showing from Sparks.
At the six-minute mark, a tough but legal hit on Liljegren, who left himself vulnerable on the play, saw him fall awkwardly back into the boards. Slow to get up, the rookie defenseman exited the game and did not return.
With 13 minutes left to go, a pair of penalties by Bridgeport presented Toronto with 33 seconds of a two-man advantage. Sheldon Keefe called a timeout, but the Marlies could not break down the league’s second-best penalty kill.
An exhausted Toronto team then killed a penalty of their own before almost snatching victory with 2:30 left on the clock. The top line created a chance with a hard-working shift, but Aaltonen again could not provide the telling finish on a feed from Kapanen.
A stop in the dying seconds from Sparks secured a point before it was off to overtime for just the fourth occasion this season.
The Marlies were mostly hanging on during the five minutes of 3-on-3, although Kapanen was left ruing a missed chance on a breakaway.
Sparks’ five saves took the game to a shootout, but all three Toronto players missed and Mitchell Vande Sompel scored on Bridgeport’s third attempt to secure the extra point for the Sound Tigers.
Post Games Notes
– Toronto allowed just a single goal against this weekend, recorded back-to-back shutouts, and took five of a possible six points on offer.
“Just really proud of the effort our guys gave today,” said Sheldon Keefe. “When you’re in a situation with three games in three days in three different cities, it’s easy to overlook this one and kind of let it slide, especially against a rested team for the most part… for our guys to dig in like that, I was really proud of them.”
– This was the first defeat in post-regulation play this season after recording one overtime and two shootouts wins.
– Garret Sparks posted 31 saves for his third shutout of the season. His save percentage improves to .942.
– Timothy Liljegren appears to be banged up as per Sheldon Keefe: “We’ll give him some time to settle in, but it doesn’t appear to be anything too serious at this stage.” The Marlies don’t play again until Friday, so he has time to recover.
– The scratches for the final game of the three-in-three were Mason Marchment, Dmytro Timashov and Martin Marincin.
– Sunday’s lines: