The Toronto Marlies saw their three-game winning streak came to an end with a “backward step” performance against the Belleville Senators on Tuesday night.
After shutting out Laval Rocket twice last weekend on the back of structured, defensively-sound hockey, the Marlies veered away from that in a big way and were punished by Belleville’s talent up front en route to a 7-6 loss.
“Today, we played with just no structure at all,” said Sheldon Keefe. “It’s just showing we are not where we need to be as a team… Their top line just did whatever they wanted out there, so that is pretty embarrassing for our team, and it’s been that way most of the season.”
It took the Senators just 78 seconds to open the scoring after the Marlies defense parted like the red sea and allowed Erik Burgdoerfer to score his fourth of the season with ease.
Marlies debutant Tanner MacMaster came close to leveling the score before a tying goal arrived via a familiar source. From his own blue line, Jeremy Bracco picked out Chris Muller in stride through the neutral zone and the veteran forward breezed past two Belleville defenders down the left wing, where his cross-ice feed found Bracco waiting at the backdoor to register his 13th goal on the year.
With about seven minutes to go in the period, a persistent forecheck led to the Marlies taking the lead as Sam Gagner buried the puck from the slot after a hard-working shift from his line in the offensive zone.
It took the Senators just over 60 seconds to respond, however, as a shot from Jordan Murray found its way through a plethora of traffic and past Michael Hutchinson to tie the game at 2-2 heading into the middle frame.
The Marlies began the second period on the power play, where Mueller was robbed of a certain goal by a fantastic save from Marcus Hogberg.
After killing a penalty, the Marlies retook the lead at the midway mark when Bracco sent Mueller in alone and veteran forward finished confidently on the breakaway.
The Marlies’ fell into a ‘run-and gun’ style of game and were missing assignment after assignment in their own zone, leading to Belleville striking twice in quick succession to surge out to a 4-3 lead.
Nick Paul roofed his shot past Hutchinson and Aaron Luchuk tipped a blast by Andreas Englund to put Belleville in front for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.
The back-and-forth scoring parade continued as Toronto struck back just 31 seconds later. Calle Rosen and Colin Greening combined to tee up Michael Carcone for a pretty deft one-time finish by the left winger.
The Senators blew the game open less than six minutes into the final frame with a pair of goals inside 20 seconds. A turnover by Sam Jardine was punished by Luchuk before Drake Batherson scored on the power play to put the Senators up 6-4.
An unlikely-looking comeback from the Marlies then kicked off thanks to a piece of great vision from Sam Gagner. The veteran forward found Andreas Borgman streaking in behind the Belleville defense, where the defenseman produced an adept chipped finish on his backhand.
The Marlies then tied the game at six apiece with five minutes remaining when Frank Corrado fired a seeing-eye shot from the point for just his second goal of the year.
After regulation solved nothing, both teams had chances to clinch the extra point in 3-on-3 overtime.
Trevor Moore should have scored following excellent work from Rosen, while a mistake from the aforementioned defenseman gifted Murray a breakaway he was unable to convert on.
It was left to Logan Brown to finish proceedings as he buried an opportunity following a 2-on-1 break — a result that was no less than the Marlies deserved on the merits of their performance.
Post Game Notes
– Belleville is proving to be Toronto’s kryptonite this season. The Marlies have recorded just one regulation win in the eight games of the series so far against a team that currently sits at the bottom of the North Division.
– Michael Carcone returned to the lineup (concussion) with a goal and led all skaters with seven shots on goal.
“I thought he was good,” said Keefe. “He created offense. He skated. He worked hard and scored a good goal. He gets to the inside as much as anyone that we have; gets to the net and attacks the crease. That was a welcome addition to the group for sure.”
– Chris Mueller scored his 22nd goal and his 47th point, placing him fourth overall in league scoring. After registering just the one goal in his last four outings, linemate Jeremy Bracco (1-1-2) recorded his 13th multi-point haul of the season.
“He’s been a good influence on [Bracco] all year and a good counterbalance between the energy of Bracco,” said Keefe. “He is a little more subdued but has more experience and wisdom. They’re a good pair together in terms of how they exchange the puck and where they go on the ice for each other. Our power play has gotten a lot of life since we paired them a couple of months ago and it’s a pair that has really worked for us.”
– Two assists for Calle Rosen takes him to 36 points on the season, tied for second among all AHL defensemen.
– Two assists for Trevor Moore takes him to 32 points — just one shy of his career high — in just 37 appearances.
– Tuesday’s lines: