Whatever was said by Sheldon Keefe and his staff following Friday night’s abject performance, the message was received by the team he iced for Saturday’s rematch.
A full sixty-minute performance, a far better defensive effort, and solid goaltending backed up the offense as the Marlies routed the Senators in the second game of the weekend back-to-back.
“Coming off of yesterday, what you’re looking for is exactly this in response,” said Keefe. “We challenged them a little bit coming into the game and they responded. A great effort from our team, start to finish.”
Toronto got off to a good start territorially, but they were unable to turn their possession advantage into anything tangible on the scoreboard. Carl Grundstrom was denied on three separate occasions inside the first six minutes, while Filip Gustavsson stopped a wraparound attempt by Dmytro Timashov.
Jeremy Bracco was unable to connect on a pass from Chris Mueller and a power play went to waste before the Marlies finally broke the deadlock inside the final four minutes. Colin Greening drove to the net and forced a pad save, resulting in a rebound for Josh Jooris to slap home.
Just 25 seconds later, Toronto doubled their lead after Sam Gagner’s shot provided a second opportunity for Carl Grundstrom to fire past Gustavsson.
Eamon McAdam then preserved the two-goal lead at the sound of the buzzer thanks to a sharp save on Drake Batherson inside the final minute.
Taking a penalty just 17 seconds into the middle frame wasn’t the plan hatched during the intermission, but the Marlies‘ struggling penalty kill did a bang-up job of keeping the Senators’ man-advantage unit to the outside.
A subsequent power play for Toronto saw the luckless Jeremy Bracco denied of a certain goal by Chase Balisy, while Liljegren was stopped by Gustavsson after weaving his way through the entire Belleville penalty-killing unit.
Rasmus Sandin, who put in another impressive performance, was robbed of a goal by Gustavsson moments after almost teeing up Grundstrom for his second of the game.
McAdam was a passenger through sections of this game, but he remained dialed in to rob Jack Rodewald in alone on goal with a pad save.
The Marlies rewarded their goaltender at the other end by striking for a third time, as Chris Mueller applied the slightest of touches to a long-range shot from Liljegren eight minutes into the period.
Very much against the run of play, the Senators responded with a power-play marker a minute and a half later. A drop pass from Andrew Sturtz found Batherson and Friday’s night’s six-point hero beat McAdam with a shot over his shoulder.
Far from being a momentum swinger, the Marlies killed a subsequent penalty and almost tallied shorthanded through Andreas Borgman before responding with a power play goal of their own.
Jordan Subban’s deceptive wrist shot increased the lead to 4-1 inside the final five minutes, and it should have been 5-1 for the Marlies within seconds of the restart.
A long stretch pass from Liljegren sent Pierre Engvall in on net, where he sent the puck across to Grundstrom for what should’ve been his second of the night. With the whole net to aim at, Grundstrom rung his effort off the crossbar.
A fantastic last gasp diving save from McAdam to stonewall Balisy inside the final minute of the second period was as close as the Senators came to mounting a comeback, as the Marlies took full control in the final frame to see out the win.
The game was over as a contest less than two minutes into the third period when Grundstrom finally netted his second on a good feed from Mason Marchment.
The scoreline quickly got out of control as Toronto made it 7-1 before the 50-minute mark on Gagner’s power-play marker before scored his fourth of the season.
It was a shame that Toronto conceded the second goal, as McAdam deserved better than Timashov turning the puck over in the slot to Andreas Englund, who beat the Marlies goaltender with a low shot through traffic.
An eighth goal for the Marlies proved the final straw for Belleville as all hell broke loose following Adam Cracknell’s breakaway goal.
Marchment was taken out behind the play, with all four officials somehow missing the incident. Patrick Sieloff was ejected after taking a run at Jooris — almost connecting knee-on-knee — while Sandin and Liljegren had to have their wits about them as the Senators resorted to the underhanded tactics we’ve seen from them in the past in these matchups.
Keefe and Belleville head coach Troy Mann exchanged some words across the benches, with Keefe responding to the Senators’ antics by putting the top power-play unit on the ice in an 8-2 game.
“We are not going to sit idly by while they go out and, in my opinion, seek to injure one of our players,” said Keefe after the game. “On that type of penalty, I don’t think it makes any sense for us to keep our top power play off the ice. We earned the opportunity to take the lead. If they took a tripping or hooking penalty, you’re not going to see our top unit out there in that type of game, and my time in the league would speak to that.”
Thankfully, no injuries were incurred and the Marlies’ 8-2 victory brought their record back to .500. More importantly, this performance set a bar moving forward.
Post Game Notes
– Eamon McAdam isn’t orthodox by any means and can scramble at times, but tonight he stopped the puck when the Marlies needed him to. The goaltender posted 23 saves for a win in his first start and he has earned the right to keep the net for the Tuesday night tilt in Laval.
– With a little more luck, Carl Grundstrom would have been celebrating a hat-trick instead of a two-goal haul. This was his best all-around performance of the season, goals aside, as he was a constant threat throughout the game.
– A goal and an assist for Sam Gagner, who led all skaters with eight shots, gives him four points (2-2-4) in the last three games after going scoreless in three previous outings.
– Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman both registered two assists, Jordan Subban scored in his return to the lineup (healthy scratch on Friday), and Timothy Liljegren recorded an assist as the blue line contributed on half of the eight goals.
“We had the expectation that [Liljegren’s] game would evolve to be able to settle down a little bit as he gets comfortable and he gets more opportunity to do those types of things offensively,” said Keefe. “But I thought he just had a solid game on all sides of the puck today. Very good for him and the defense as a group was good.”
– Consecutive two-point games for Mason Marchment puts him at a point-per-game pace through seven outings (4-3-7). Almost as impressive as his goal and an assist was his coolness under provocation from the Senators, especially in the third period with the game done as a contest. Marchment suffered a concussion in Belleville last season after dropping the gloves following some taunting.
– Griffen Molino replaced Adam Brooks in the lineup as a precautionary measure as Brooks didn’t feel 100% after Friday’s night’s defeat. It’s not related to his previous injury, however.
“That line (Molino – Greening – Jooris) set the table for us,” said Keefe. “We started them here today. Molino comes into the lineup and gives us some speed and energy and compliments those guys very well. That was a good line for us for sure, but it felt like we had contributions coming from each line in all three periods.”
– Jordan Subban replaced Frank Corrado in what is expected to be an ongoing rotation on the blue line.
– Saturday’s lines:
Timashov – Mueller – Bracco
Engvall – Gagner – Grundstrom
Marchment – Cracknell – Moore
Molino – Greening – Jooris
Rosen – Liljegren
Sandin – LoVerde
Borgman – Subban