The Toronto Marlies fell to a fifth straight defeat on home ice following a largely abject performance against Rochester on Saturday.
Asked about his overall thoughts on his team’s performance in the 4-1 loss, Sheldon Keefe’s terse response summed it up: “Not very good.”
The Marlies spotted Rochester a 2-0 lead in the opening period and were outshot 14-7 through 20 minutes.
Kevin Porter tested Calvin Pickard with the game’s first real chance at the five-minute mark following one of many turnovers by the Marlies throughout this game.
The Marlies were finally made to pay with 7:58 on the clock after an initial error from Timothy Liljegren. The rookie defenseman lugged the puck into the offensive zone but turned it over and Rochester created a breakaway for Justin Bailey, who sprung the zone undetected and scored five-hole on Pickard following a perfect feed from Colin Blackwell.
The Marlies finally tested Linus Ullmark with 11 minutes played as Colin Greening attempted a wraparound and then a shot redirect off of the following faceoff by Jeremy Bracco.
With six minutes remaining, an initial turnover behind own his net by Andrew Nielsen — who had another game to forget — didn’t prove costly but his bad penalty afterwards did. Zach Redmond ripped home a one-timer from the left circle past the blocker of Pickard.
The Amerks were full value for a two-goal lead at the first intermission.
There were glimmers of hope for Toronto in the middle frame, but they still failed to generate enough offensively.
An early power play presented excellent chances for Ben Smith and Adam Brooks. The Captain was unlucky not to have the puck bounce his way while the rookie was denied by Ullmark’s best save of the game.
Kyle Baun wasn’t able to capitalize on a partial breakaway orchestrated by Justin Holl before an offensive rush from Andreas Borgman drew another Toronto power play. It almost backfired, however, as the Marlies were careless in possession and nearly gifted the visitors a shorthanded goal.
Trevor Moore had a great opportunity from between the hashmarks with three minutes remaining but fired his effort into the midriff of Ullmark, who came out to challenge at the top of his crease.
With 22 seconds left on the clock, the game was essentially over as a contest. With the Marlies scrambling in their own end, Daniel O’Regan rounded the net and rotated onto his forehand unchallenged before firing through a screen to score his first for Rochester in his second game since being acquired via trade.
A sliver of hope for Toronto arrived early in the third period.
Andreas Johnsson and Martin Marincin combined to strip possession from the Amerks at center ice. The former then proceeded to drive into the Rochester zone, exchanging passes with Smith before rifling top shelf past Ullmark to draw Toronto within two.
With less than seven minutes played, Toronto narrowed the deficit to one — except they didn’t because of a suspect decision from the officials, who waived off what looked like a good goal.
A scramble in front resulted in Marincin forcing the puck over the goal line before the whistle was blown. Despite the puck crossing the line and no infringement on the goaltender on the play, the no-goal call stood. That was as close as the Marlies came to putting Rochester under any real pressure.
Adam Brooks, a rare bright spot for Toronto, was once more denied by Ullmark before the Marlies drew a four-minute power play. Barring a shot from Chris Mueller striking the iron, another poor showing from the Marlies with the extra man seemed to suck the remaining life out of them.
Rochester sealed the deal with an empty-netter scored by O’Regan courtesy of yet another turnover — this time from Johnsson — and Toronto fell to a second straight loss to their North Division rivals.
Post Game Notes
– This was the eighth consecutive game in which Toronto has given up three or more goals against.
“We had a ton of chances today — we were all over the net, we just couldn’t get it to fall in for us,” said Sheldon Keefe. “When it’s not going for you offensively, you can’t spot teams leads, and we had a very poor start today.”
– Toronto has lost three of four games against Rochester on home ice but still lead the season series 4-3.
– The Marlies lead atop the North Division has been cut to four points.
– Andreas Johnsson scored his 24th goal of the season and moved into second place in AHL scoring with 52 points in 51 games.
– Ben Smith registered a 22nd assist of the year for his 44th point and is now inside the top 20 AHL scorers.
– In a game in which few Marlies could hold their heads high, Adam Brooks produced one of his best performances to date. The rookie forward was unfortunate not to score and was one of Toronto’s bigger threats offensively.
“I thought he was really good and he’s coming on here,” said Keefe. “Obviously, with Aaltonen coming out of the lineup, that opens up more opportunity. Offensively, we have been challenged here of late and we’ve been trailing. You’ve got to hope and trust that the young guys that have the talent come through for you. It’s a different type of approach when playing from behind. I think he’s been able to benefit from that. I liked his game today.”