The Toronto Marlies fell to a frustrating 2-1 overtime defeat against Cleveland on Sunday after looking set to pick up their first regulation win since November 10.
Much of the anger will be leveled at the officials in this game, but for the Marlies‘ part, there were plenty of missed chances, including squandered opportunities on a power play that has completely stalled of late.
Eamon McAdam, one of Toronto’s best performers since taking on the defacto starter’s job, made a huge early save on Eric Robinson to keep Cleveland off the board. The play quickly broke the other way, where Carl Grundstrom lost control of the puck on a breakaway as both teams could have scored inside the opening 20 seconds.
The Marlies earned three straight power plays in the first 10 minutes but wasted each one — barely able to gain the zone with control at times — and they were fortunate that Mark Letestu’s shot on a shorthanded rush clipped the outside of the post.
Back at even strength, Dmytro Timashov and Adam Brooks were both in excellent positions to score but were thwarted by some excellent shot blocking by the Monsters defense.
The deadlock was finally broken at the 12-minute mark by a Marlie currently in red-hot form. Adam Brooks turned provider with an excellent feed from the left boards, setting up Mason Marchment for a one-timer past Jean-Francois Berube to put Toronto up 1-0.
The Marlies struggling penalty kill (ranked 30th heading into this game) went to work late in the period and kept Cleveland off the board to preserve a slender lead heading into the intermission. It marked just the third occasion this season that the Marlies have not allowed a goal against in the first period.
The middle frame was only notable for a plethora of penalties, while Toronto was out-shot 10-5. Off-setting minors six minutes in saw Cleveland control possession but fail to trouble McAdam as the Marlies did a good job of keeping the Monsters to the perimeter.
Josh Jooris nearly connected with Grundstrom on an odd-man rush before Pierre Engvall came close during an excellent shift from his line that drew a penalty at the nine-minute mark. It proved to be a short-lived power play, as Trevor Moore was tabbed for the weakest of interference calls and his frustration about the call saw him earned him an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The brief period of four-on-four play saw Brooks denied twice in succession by Berube, with the second opportunity coming courtesy of a nice play-making sequence involving Engvall and Timothy Liljegren.
Almost three minutes of power play time for Cleveland looked like a daunting prospect for Toronto, but again the penalty killers stuck to their task, with McAdam not called on to make a save of note.
The Marlies PK had to go to work once more before the period ended thanks to a careless play from Jeremy Bracco at the offensive blue line, but the now confident PK units kept the intact heading into the final frame.
The Marlies came out flying in the final frame and dominated possession, with Cleveland resorting to dumping and changing. There was no second goal forthcoming, however, and no power play, either, despite Marchment taking a clear cross-check from behind.
It looked ominous for the Marlies after Vincent LoVerde and Andreas Borgman (double minor) were both called for infractions in the space of 90 seconds. For 29 seconds, Cleveland held a two-man advantage without success, but they still had 3:36 of a 5-on-4 to work with. Toronto’s penalty killers found another gear, though, and continued to frustrate the Monsters power play units, who barely tested McAdam through that entire stretch of play.
With five minutes remaining in regulation, Liljegren found Brooks alone in front of goal, but the Marlies centerman was twice denied by Berube as another chance to tack on an insurance marker went begging.
It appeared as if that would be a costly miss when a break down from the Marlies allowed Vitaly Abramov to streak in alone on goal, but McAdam produced a wonderful glove save with 2:30 left on the clock.
What transpired 30 seconds or so later was unfortunate but also avoidable from the Marlies perspective. In the Cleveland zone, Grundstrom was hooked down in front of the officials and then knocked down again with the puck nowhere in sight, with the play now quickly transitioning in the other direction.
A terrible missed call from the officials was followed by a moment McAdam would rather forget. He was unable to hang onto Nathan Gerbe’s speculative long-range shot, allowing an ugly rebound that Sonny Milano tucked home to tie the game at one apiece.
That was a body-blow that the Marlies never really recovered from heading into overtime.
The Marlies never gained full control of the puck in the extra frame before Letestu claimed the extra point for the Monsters with a goal timed at 61 seconds.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies are yet to beat Cleveland in regulation in four encounters this season, with just a lone overtime win to their name. The Monsters have won the other three games in regulation, a shootout, and now one in overtime.
– After giving up at least one power play goal against in the past nine games, Toronto’s penalty kill finally recorded a clean sheet. Going a perfect seven for seven was a huge part of being able to take something from this game, as well as limiting Cleveland to just 26 shots through regulation.
“The penalty kill was outstanding and gave us a chance to win the hockey game,” said Sheldon Keefe. “With the way the power play is struggling, it had an opportunity to take over the hockey game and failed to do so. But that’s progress for us. Guys really dug in and did a job there.”
– A fifth goal in three games for Mason Marchment extends his point per game pace to 13.
“The biggest thing is that he’s continued playing with the same mindset he had in the playoffs last year, which is that he’s a difference maker,” said Keefe. “He’s on the puck. He’s been physical. He is using his body and his strength to win pucks. His linemates get him the puck in good areas and he can shoot it and finish as well as anybody we have.”
– Adam Brooks recorded his fourth assist in the past three games to keep his points streak alive. That’s six points in as many games since returning from injury, although he’ll definitely be annoyed at himself for not burying on at least one of his several good looks in this game.
– Eamon McAdam has been a work in progress since being pressed into action due to an injury and the poor form of Jeff Glass. Many will point the finger at him for the 1-1 goal, but apart from one mistake, he was otherwise excellent and produced a handful of key saves. He’s still unbeaten in regulation this season (3-0-3) and was less than two minutes away from recording his first AHL shutout.
– Sunday’s lines: