“A pretty thorough ass kicking.”
That was the honest assessment of head coach Sheldon Keefe after the Toronto Marlies were dismantled by the Belleville Senators by a 6-2 scoreline on Friday night. A tired Marlies team manufactured little fight back in this game after falling behind 2-1, and they’ll need to dig deeper to take anything from Saturday’s rematch, with points against division rivals at a premium heading into the All-Star break.
The Marlies couldn’t take advantage of an early power play before Belleville took a 1-0 lead inside five minutes. After exiting the box, Drake Batherson’s first touch of the puck sent Max McCormick in alone on goal, where the Senators forward scored his sixth of the season on Belleville’s first shot attempt of the game.
Almost out of the blue, the Marlies tied the game up just before the seven-minute mark. After a booming shot from Andreas Borgman missed wide and took a wicked bounce off the end boards, Colin Greening was the first to react, roofing the rebound past Marcus Hogberg.
Despite a huge save by Kasimir Kaskisuo to deny Rudolfs Balcers with four minutes remaining, Toronto trailed at the break after a bad giveaway from Pierre Engvall, who attempted a drop pass that resulted in a 3-on-1 rush back the other way for the Senators. Former Marlies winger Tobias Lindberg was left with the easy task of tapping home the 2-1 goal at the backdoor.
The Marlies ran into major penalty trouble in the middle frame and never recovered afterward. After beginning the period down a man with a penalty carrying over from the previous period, Toronto took two more minor infractions in the first 6:30 of the second stanza.
On the first penalty of the period, with Stefan Leblanc in the box for interference, Filip Chlapik converted on a pass from Adam Tambellini to put the Senators up 3-1. The Marlies then nearly scored shorthanded on the next Belleville power play after Dmytro Timashov was sprung free on a breakaway, but he appeared to have Hogberg beaten only to refuse to shoot, attempting to tee up Engvall to no avail.
Scoring chances for the Marlies were few and far between, with none of their four lines able to generate much in the way of offensive zone time. When the top line (Engvall-Mueller-Bracco) finally sustained some o-zone pressure at the midway point, Calle Rosen was robbed of a 3-2 goal by Hogberg.
It was then Belleville’s turn to take back-to-back penalties resulting in goals at each end. A mistake from Hogberg behind his net allowed Gabriel Gagne to set up Carl Grundstrom for a tap-in with eight minutes left in the period. On the second man advantage came the backbreaker for the Marlies in the form of a shorthanded goal against.
After Balcers escaped down the left wing unattended, the Senators forward whiffed on the attempted shot and the off-speed trickler somehow confounded Kaskisuo, putting Belleville up 4-2 after 40 minutes. From that point on, the Senators never looked back.
After generating just 16 shots in the opening 40 minutes, Toronto mustered just nine in the final frame, with a push never really arriving and a comeback never looking likely.
Instead, the game was killed off by two Belleville goals inside a four-minute span — Logan Brown scored on the power play with Kaskisuo out of position before Stefan Elliott scored his fourth of the season three and a half minutes later.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies’ record against Belleville this season is now 1-3-2 with six games remaining in the season series.
“It was clearly a tired team against a rested team out there, and we’ve got to find a way to get some energy and 60 minutes of good hard work in before the break,” said Keefe. “We weren’t good enough in any one area today to beat what is a much-improved team with the moves that they’ve made. They’ve revamped their defense and got guys back from Ottawa during their break, so that’s as good of a lineup as we’ve seen from them.”
– Carl Grundstrom now has goals in back-to-back games and is riding a three-game points streak (2-1-3), tied for his longest of the season.
– The assist on Grundstrom’s goal was the first Marlies point for Gabriel Gagne and it came against his former team.
– Andreas Borgman recorded his first point (primary assist on opening goal) since returning from a concussion three games ago against Charlotte.
– Kasimir Kaskisuo would likely want two goals back, but he certainly wasn’t the reason Toronto lost this game. He posted 28 saves as the Marlies were outshot 34-25.
– Friday’s lines: