Despite a bright start to the game, a depleted Toronto Marlies lineup was soundly beaten on the road in Rochester on Friday night.
The Marlies lineup was so disheveled that Derain Plouffe arrived for the game late and joined his teammates on the bench around the five-minute mark of the first period. Morgan Klimchuk returned from suspension, Plouffe made his season debut, Calle Rosen returned from injury (neck), Colin Greening was called on to play center, and Jordan Subban was given right-wing duties on the fourth line.
“I thought the group that we had, despite all of the changes to the lineup, was good enough to show better here today,” said Sheldon Keefe.
Despite missing Jeremy Bracco, Adam Brooks and Pierre Engvall through illness, the Marlies gave up just a single shot through the first ten minutes of the opening frame and had chances to open up a lead heading into the first intermission.
Dmytro Timashov looked set to score but was stripped of the puck at the last minute in the slot, while Chris Mueller was turned aside after creating some space for himself in the right circle.
The Marlies weren’t able to capitalize on a pair of power play opportunities and were bailed out by Eamon McAdam after a good save to deny Rochester a shorthanded goal.
Toronto’s best opportunity to take the lead arrived inside the final 30 seconds, when Colin Greening was visibly upset with himself after he was unable to convert from in-tight following a strong shift from linemates Mason Marchment and Morgan Klimchuk, who recovered the puck along the end boards.
The Marlies almost fell behind 30 seconds into the middle frame, but McAdam forced Justin Bailey wide and into a weak shot after the Amerks winger broke away courtesy of a fortuitous bounce.
A third power play of the game for Toronto saw Scott Wedgewood deny Carl Grundstrom before robbing Chris Mueller in an incredible sequence in the Amerks crease.
The turning point of the game arrived on that same power play after a mistake from Sam Gagner allowed Eric Cornel to tee up Wayne Simpson for the easiest shorthanded goal he’s likely to score in his career.
From that moment on, the Amerks were in the ascendancy and really should have made it a 2-0 lead on a 2-on-1 rush if not for another good save from McAdam.
It was a short-lived reprieve for the Marlies, as Zach Redmond netted on Rochester’s first power play and Brendan Guhle scored an even-strength marker shortly after, giving the Amerks a 3-0 lead by the midway point.
Plouffe forced an excellent save from Wedgewood following a delightful backhand pass from Michael Carcone before Mueller finally got Toronto on the board on a 5-on-3 power play.
Any hope of a comeback was short-lived, though, as once again Rochester was gifted a goal. Morgan Klimchuk failed to deal with the puck under pressure in his own zone and presented it straight to Bailey, who sent a seeing-eye shot through traffic to give the Amerks a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes.
The third period unraveled into a penalty fest. Carcone wasn’t happy to be called for slashing and ended up with a 10-minute misconduct for abuse of officials. The Marlies also failed to score on three power-play opportunities while conceding a fifth goal with two men in the box themselves.
With Sam Jardine and Greening penalized on the same play, Rochester made a full two-minute 5-on-3 count through Danny O’Regan.
Score effects dictated Toronto out-shot Rochester 36-27, but the result was never in doubt from the moment the Amerks scored the opening goal.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto has been out-scored 9-2 over two straight losses.
– The Marlies struggled majorly on special teams, going 1/8 on the power play and allowing a shorthanded goal to cancel it out. After Rochester netted twice on five power plays opportunities, Toronto’s penalty kill is now ranked 30th overall at 75.9%.
“The bodies we were missing really showed themselves on special teams especially,” said Keefe.
– Chris Mueller scored his 14th goal of the campaign and led all skaters with eleven shots on goal. He was head and shoulders the best performer in a Marlies jersey throughout the game.
– Friday’s lines: