The Toronto Marlies slipped to a third consecutive defeat following an insipid performance on home ice against the Utica Comets.
The Comets scored four times unanswered in the opening period after a bright enough start from the Marlies that saw them record the first three shots of the game.
Utica struck inside two minutes, as missed defensive assignments from the Marlies tracking back afforded Adam Gaudette too much time down the left wing and Andreas Borgman left Darren Archibald untouched at the back post to tap in from the blue paint.
That set the tone for the remainder of the period as the Marlies invited pressure with individual mistakes and poor decision making.
Utica couldn’t increase their advantage until almost the 14-minute mark before going on to score three times in under five minutes.
Caught up ice with numbers coming the other way after Timothy Liljegren fell over at the offensive blue line, the Marlies allowed an odd-man break in transition and Tanner MacMaster advanced to score on a feed from Reid Boucher.
The Marlies killed a subsequent penalty and nearly potted a shorthanded marker through excellent individual efforts by Colin Greening, but 20 seconds later at even strength, Brendan Woods beat Kasimir Kaskisuo with a tip on Guillaume Brisebois’ shot after Brisebois danced inside around Dmytro Timashov coming in off the point.
A fourth goal for Utica came courtesy of Gaudette, who led the rush across the blue line before dishing off to his right. Archibald then made a fool of Calle Rosen by rounding him on the outside before finding Gaudette un-tied up in front in the slot.
The response the Marlies were looking for to start the middle frame never materialized as the hemorrhaging continued early in the second period. Boucher fired home from the top of the left circle with a one-time slapshot on the power play.
Lukas Jasek was then left all alone to tap home a cross-crease feed from Carter Bancks, which led to Sheldon Keefe replacing Kaskisuo with Jeff Glass with the score sitting 6-0 Utica 27 minutes into the game.
The Marlies weren’t able to capitalize on three consecutive power plays as well as a 3-on-1 break but did find the net late in the period after a letoff by the Comets. With Jordan Subban in the box for checking to the head, Dmytro Timashov snuck in alone shorthanded to finally put the Marlies on the board.
As some complacency set in for Utica, Jeremy Bracco picked up a shot-come-pass from Andreas Borgman and swept the puck around Ivan Kulbakov and into the net to make it 6-2.
With Utica making a convoluted line change, Andrew Nielsen then found Griffen Molino with a long stretch pass and the former Comets forward scored on a low wrist shot.
That inspired a timeout from Utica head coach Trent Cull, but the Comets were rarely troubled at 5-on-5 afterward as they saw out the win.
Each team netted a further goal apiece, both on the power play, as Boucher scored his second of the game while Emerson Clark netted his first in a Marlies uniform.
It was a bad day at the office for the Marlies, who have a chance to avenge this 7-4 defeat with the rematch against Utica on Sunday afternoon.
Post Game Notes
– This is the first time the Marlies have started a season with a 1-3-0 record since 2010-11, which is the last occasion they missed the playoffs.
“We had a bad day,” Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “The coaching staff had a bad day, the players had a bad day. But I believe in this group. I believe in the guys we had in the lineup today. I believe in the guys we have injured who are going to come into the lineup here soon. But we have to get to work.”
– Chris Mueller (injury) and Carl Grundstrom (sick) were both big absences in the line-up as the Marlies opted to dress seven defensemen. Adam Brooks and Mason Marchment remain absent due to injury also.
– Sam Gagner extended his point streak to three games (3-3-6), but this was his least effective outing since joining the team on loan.
– Kasimir Kaskisuo allowed six goals on 24 shots but again was left hung out to dry by the players in front of him.
– Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey was signed to a PTO before the game and had himself a decent enough debut despite the horror show performance from the majority of the team.
– Saturday lines: