A combination of a fast start, excellent penalty killing in the second half of the game, and their first shootout victory of the season sent the Toronto Marlies into the All-Star break on a high note after a 3-2 win in Belleville on Saturday.
The Marlies head into the All-Star break with a 22-16-6 record, good for fourth place in the North Division — i.e. a playoff berth — with 32 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season.
Unlike Friday evening, the Marlies took advantage of an early power play to take a 1-0 with just 101 seconds played — Jeremy Bracco’s nice finish came after even better work from Chris Mueller to create the opportunity.
Toronto then doubled their lead at the seven-minute mark on a set break-out play. Calle Rosen sent Dmytro Timashov away down the left, where the diminutive winger flashed a burst of speed to get by Cody Goloubef before teeing up Tom Sestito for a goal in his Marlies debut.
The Marlies had to settle for a 2-0 lead heading into the intermission despite continuing to dictate the run of play in the opening 20 minutes.
The tide turned just three minutes into the middle frame after an innocent-looking play led to the Senators halving the Marlies‘ advantage.
From the bottom of the left circle, Logan Brown appeared to be heading behind the net but instead beat Michael Hutchinson over his shoulder with a short-side shot that the goaltender likely wanted back.
It took the Marlies a while to gain their footing in the period, but Gabriel Gagne came close on two occasions, striking the iron once and then forcing a good save out of Marcus Hogberg.
A second power play for Toronto only resulted in a fantastic scoring opportunity for the Senators, but Hutchinson pulled off a fantastic save to rob Filip Chlapik and keep the 2-1 lead intact.
The Marlies’ penalty kill went to work for the first time at the midway point of the game and barely gave the Senators a sniff of a goal. After exiting the box, Colin Greening was presented with a breakaway opportunity, but Hogberg produced the best save of the night with a desperation right-pad stop.
Belleville was driving the majority of the play at this point and should have tied the game up before the second intermission, with the best opportunity falling to Jack Rodewald on a 2-on-1 rush, but Hutchinson once more came up big for the Marlies.
The Senators continued to dominate in the third period, with the Marlies for their part guilty of some sloppy play. A bad line change resulted in another great chance for Chlapik, who was again frustrated by Hutchinson.
The almost inevitable tying goal arrived less than two minutes in when Drake Batherson pounced on a rebound following a point shot by Erik Burgdoerfer.
The Marlies then rode their luck somewhat as Belleville continued to press in search of a go-ahead goal. Brown clang a shot off the crossbar before Morgan Klimchuk was denied by Hutchinson despite the Marlies goaltender losing his stick on the play.
The result really appeared in peril for Marlies after Sestito was assessed a five-minute major for boarding with 7:24 remaining. It appeared to be a reputation call rather than based on the actual hit or intent, with the primary point of contact looking more like shoulder than between the numbers.
The Marlies were not deterred by that turn of events, however, and rallied in impressive fashion to kill the major penalty, with Hutchinson not called upon to make a single save.
Regulation solved nothing and neither did overtime, despite the Marlies needing to kill yet another penalty.
Having lost all three shootouts heading into this game, the Marlies’ confidence in the skills competition might not have been high, and their prospects appeared bleak after they trailed 1-0 through three attempts. However, Mason Marchment tied up the shootout, Hutchinson turned aside Brown, and Gagne provided the game-winner against his former team to claim the extra point for the Marlies.
Post Game Notes
– Dmytro Timashov recorded a pair of helpers, giving him 24 assists and 29 points on the season through 41 games. He’s been a much-improved player since his demotion to the fourth line, where he’s also been given the responsibility of penalty-killing duties.
– Jeremy Bracco picked up his 20th power play point with the game’s opening goal.
Bracco has five goals in his last seven outings and remains at PPG pace through 43 games, good for seventh in AHL scoring.
– Tom Sestito was a surprise addition to the lineup with the healthy scratch of Sam Gagner (no reason given). On the fourth line alongside Dmytro Timashov and Colin Greening, Sestito had a positive impact for the most part, with that trio consistently causing Belleville problems in the offensive zone.
“He made himself noticed, didn’t he?” said Sheldon Keefe. “Scored a goal, had a couple good chances. I liked his game. Obviously, he’s trying to make an impact on the game physically as well and it catches up with him on the penalty, but just the way that you saw our team dig in to kill that is not only a good reflection of our group and the pride they have, but also how they feel about Tom and the work that he has done here to get himself up to speed. The guys dug in and got that kill for him, so it was great to see that.”
– An assist for Calle Rosen gives him 31 points on the season (5-26-31), moving him up to seventh in AHL defense scoring.
– It’s entirely possible Toronto will have the services of Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin shortly after the All-Star break, according to Sheldon Keefe.
– Saturday’s lines: