It probably should have been a more comfortable victory, but the Toronto Marlies picked up their first home win of the season over Hartford on Saturday.
Neither side was particularly sharp defensively in the opening period, but the Marlies were the more clinical in front of net and held a one-goal advantage after 20 minutes.
The Marlies were on their mettle from the opening face-off; Carl Grundstrom’s work ensured the puck squirted loose in the slot and Trevor Moore reacted quicker than any Hartford player to sticklift a defender and fire home from the slot on the turn.
Ahead with only 55 seconds on the clock, Toronto’s early lead was almost thrown away by Jeff Glass. Outside of his crease to play the puck, the Marlies goaltender made a mess of swiping the puck clear — promptly falling on his backside — and was fortunate that the Wolf Pack failed to take advantage.
Timothy Liljegren then turned the puck over to Peter Holland in the neutral zone, but a terrific back check from Mason Marchment averted the danger with Hartford failing to move the puck quickly enough during the resulting odd-man rush.
Marchment then turned provider for the second Marlies goal of the game. Despite nearly turning the puck over in the neutral zone, he recovered possession, burst into the offensive zone, and perfectly teed up Moore for his second of the period.
Defensive slip-ups meant both teams had chances to add to the scoreline, including Moore, who was point-blank robbed of a natural hat-trick by Alexandar Georgiev.
Tim Gettinger, Bobby Butler and Steven Fogarty were all turned aside by Glass at the other end before Hartford grabbed a late goal to halve the deficit.
After consecutive penalties to Griffen Molino and Calle Rosen put Toronto down by two men, Cole Schenider tucked away a rebound from a Peter Holland shot.
The Marlies survived an early wraparound attempt by Ty Ronning before restoring their two-goal advantage on their first power play of the game. There was a deal of good fortune about it, as Grundstrom scored via the leg of a Hartford defenseman just nine seconds into the man advantage after some good puck movement from the Marlies.
Now leading 3-1, the Marlies had ample opportunities to put the game out of reach. Marchment ripped an effort high over the net from the slot, Colin Greening was denied by a fantastic save from Georgiev, and Adam Cracknell rang a one-time effort off the post on the power play. A slap pass from Jordan Subban found the tape of Dmytro Timashov, but Georgiev responded with another good save.
The third period saw the Marlies withdraw into a bit of a shell, but Hartford didn’t exert any pressure until the midway mark.
Cole Schneider forced Glass into his best save of the game before the visitors drew a penalty and an opportunity to draw within one. It could have been the Marlies who extended their advantage shorthanded, but a botched odd-man break allowed a 3-on-1 for Hartford back the other way. Out of nowhere, a flying Vincent LoVerde averted the danger with a spectacular poke-check.
Hartford’s Libor Hajek rang a long-range effort of the cross with six minutes remaining, and the visitors’ task looked hopeless after the Marlies drew a power play with 3:26 left on the clock.
A misplay from Cracknell was followed by some casual play from Jordan Subban, who allowed Lias Andersson to grab possession inside the Toronto zone and find Rob O’Gara driving down the middle of the ice. The Hartford defenseman breezed by Bracco and Marchment before rifling a shot past Glass.
It made for an interesting end to the game as the Wolf Pack pushed to complete an unlikely comeback, but a shot block from Greening and a lone save from Glass was all that was needed to clinch the Marlies’ first home victory of the season by a 3-2 score line.
Post Game Notes
– Trevor Moore potted two goals, but more importantly, he looked like a dominant player akin to his performances in the Calder Cup run last Spring. His seven shots on net led all skaters and he is now second in the league in goals with six through seven games.
“Mooresy is a guy who is a strong player and has a lot of speed,” said Sheldon Keefe, remarking on Moore’s ability to strip pucks defensively. “As he’s become more and more confident, he has gotten his body involved that much more in winning pucks. He’s got the speed to get there, he’s got the strength to get underneath guys, and then he’s got the confidence to get really involved and come up with them. He was outstanding today; from his first shift, it was pretty clear he wanted to leave his mark here today.”
– Carl Grundstrom recorded his third straight multi-point game with a goal and assist, with the goal counting as the game winner. He looks to have suffered no effects from his recent illness.
– Mason Marchment was playing just his second competitive game of the season, but he was highly impressive in all aspects, covering ice really well, winning battles, picking up a primary assist, and recording three shots on goal. It’s clear the Marlies staff waited until he was 100% ready to return to action.
“He was able to step right in this weekend and play the way he played in the playoffs,” said Keefe. “He’s on the puck, he’s winning loose pucks, he’s generating lots of shots and chances. He’s being hard to play against and the other team I don’t think is too fond of him. A lot of really good signs with how he just jumped into it this weekend.”
– Commenting on reuniting Trevor Moore and Mason Marchment — two-thirds of the effective Kid Line from last season — Keefe mentioned that the two are really confident players early this season coming off of last season’s championship.
“We didn’t use Marchy with Moore yesterday because we were kind of taking it slow with Marchy with no exhibition and things like that,” said Keefe. “But he was outstanding yesterday in the game, so we thought shuffling things today and getting him more involved on a line with Mooresy could help kickstart us. That was the case. Both those players, no matter where we put them in the lineup right now, are confident. I think their experience through last season has really put them in a good place coming into the season.”
– Pierre Engvall was a late scratch, with J.J. Piccinich taking his place in the lineup. Engvall was banged up in Rochester and didn’t feel up to it in warm-ups.
– Sam Jardine made his season debut in what was only his second game for Toronto. He played a steady, simple game, erring on the side of caution when leading the breakout or clearing the puck.
– Saturday’s lines:
Grundstrom – Mueller – Gagner
Timashov – Cracknell – Bracco
Marchment – Jooris – Moore
Molino – Greening – J.J. Piccinich
Rosen – Liljegren
Borgman – LoVerde
Jardine – Subban
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet: Marlies 3 vs. Hartford 2