The Toronto Marlies extended their points streak to a franchise-record-setting 14 games despite one of their poorest defensive displays of the season.
Offense won the day as Toronto broke the game open with a four-goal outburst in the second period. Toronto now leads the seasons series with Belleville 5-1 with six games remaining.
The first period saw the Marlies race out to a two-goal lead before giving it back in the second half of the opening frame.
In front of a sellout Belleville crowd that included more than a little blue and white, the Marlies got off to a perfect start: A blast from Martin Marincin from the left point whistled past Marcus Hogberg before Miro Aaltonen buried a feed from Andreas Johnsson to put the road team up by a pair inside five minutes.
Although the goal included some missed assignments from the Marlies, there was a degree of good fortune to Belleville’s first response at the eight-minute mark. A lofted shot at the net from Mike Blunden caught Max Reinhart’s upper body and the puck snuck past Garret Sparks.
After Trevor Moore almost restored the two-goal advantage but struck the post, a tying marker seemed only a matter a time with the way the Marlies were managing the puck. On a 3-on-1 break, Ben Sexton slid home at the far post to tie the game up through 20 minutes.
The Marlies were no better in the early going of the middle frame and were fortunate not to fall behind. A terrific shift led by Mason Marchment at the five-minute mark seemed to lift his team, reversing the momentum and setting the stage for a third Marlies goal three minutes later.
Ben Smith chased down his own dump-in behind the net, allowing Kerby Rychel to tee up Chris Mueller, whose shot produced a rebound that Smith then buried.
The lead lasted just 38 seconds as the Marlies were sloppy in their own end again. Nick Paul buried the rebound after Sparks denied a redirect attempt from Sexton, with both Senators players left open in the slot.
The decisive moment of the game occurred just after the midway mark as Toronto struck three times in two minutes: A good cycle resulted in Rychel teeing up Mueller to put the Marlies ahead; two minutes later, Aaltonen was again the beneficiary of a fantastic feed from Johnsson from behind the net to double Toronto’s advantage.
The sixth Toronto goal resulted in the end of Hogberg’s night as he was slow to get across, allowing a shot from Marchment to sneak past him on the far side.
Belleville wasn’t able to capitalize on a late power play to eat into the deficit, meaning Toronto held a three-goal lead after 40 minutes.
Almost inevitably, as is the pattern versus the Senators, the third period turned nasty as Belleville took out their frustrations about the state of the scoreboard.
Blunden blindsided Andreas Borgman with an elbow to the head at the Belleville blue line, leaving the Marlies defenseman in a heap. Borgman did not return to the game, and neither did Rich Clune after he tried to exact revenge. Blunden was rightly kicked out, sending Toronto to a five-minute power play.
On the man advantage, Marchment walked into the slot and ripped home top shelf for his second and Toronto’s seventh of the game before another altercation between the teams sent four players to the box, including Rychel and Mueller for the Marlies.
The Senators got themselves on the board one more time as Tyler Randell netted while all alone in front on a 3-on-1 break.
With 90 seconds remaining in regulation, Kyle Flanagan almost made the game a little interesting but struck the iron, and Toronto held on for a 7-4 final.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto created franchise history by extending their point streak to 14 games (13-0-1). That surpasses the record set in the opening 13 games of the 2007-08 season.
– This was the third three-point haul (0-3-3) in the space of four games for Andreas Johnsson, who in the process hit the 40-point mark this season in his 42nd game of the season. Johnsson has eight points (3-5-8) against Belleville this year. He’s also racked up 11 points (5g, 6a) in his last four games.
Johnsson’s production this season has been very steady — he has points in 27 of 42 games, and outside of one three-game pointless stretch before Christmas, he hasn’t gone more than two games without a point.
– Miro Aaltonen scored twice to take his season tally to double figures and added an assist for his first three-point haul of the season. After breaking a six-game points slump vs. Rochester, Aaltonen now has three goals and seven points in his last three games.
– A pair of assists for both Kerby Rychel — who has now achieved that feat in back-to-back games — and Nikita Soshnikov, who now has four points in three games during this conditioning stint. Soshnikov will play once more this weekend before a decision has to be made about his whereabouts going forward.
– Mason Marchment struck twice for his first goals since November 4, 2017.
– Chris Mueller recorded his 10th goal of the year, while Ben Smith reached the 20-goal plateau in his 47th game of the season.
– Martin Marincin extended his points streak to three games (1-3-4) with a goal and an assist.
– Due to a lineup card error, Jean Dupuy was unable to take part in the game.
– As for Andreas Borgman, Sheldon Keefe updated after the game: “Seems like he’s okay. I spoke with him briefly. I haven’t got the full medical report, but I think it was just precautionary more than anything. But anytime you get a little clip like that, it’s scary.”
– Friday’s lines: