The Toronto Marlies entered this game without the services of valued veterans Chris Mueller and Colin Greening, but they really should have picked up two points after outplaying Hartford for long stretches of the game.
Toronto got off to a positive start right from opening puck drop as the Moore-Brooks-Gagne line swarmed around the Hartford net, momentum the Marlies carried through until they earned the game’s first power play.
A one-time blast from Calle Rosen deservedly put the Marlies up 1-0 inside five minutes, the lead lasted just 16 seconds. Recently reassigned Vinni Lettieri escaped down the right side and beat Michael Hutchinson with a shot from low in the right circle.
The tying goal turned the tide for a while, but Toronto held firm, killing a penalty before taking control for the remainder of the first period without being able to turn 18 shots into more than one goal.
It took until three minutes of the middle frame for the Marlies to reassert themselves on the game, they but found themselves continually frustrated by netminder Brandon Halverson. Michael Carcone, Tanner MacMaster and Griffen Molino (twice) were all turned aside as Toronto did everything but score in the first half of the second period.
They were almost made to pay for not taking their chances after a giveaway by Martin Marincin, but Hutchinson bailed out the defenseman with a good save to deny Steven Fogarty.
After further opportunities for Dmytro Timashov and Carcone went begging, Toronto finally retook the lead with 3:23 remaining.
Rasmus Sandin and Carcone combined for a zone exit that resulted in Pierre Engvall taking possession of the puck at the Toronto blue line. The left winger, who was playing center in this game, took off down the right side, breezing past Sean Day before cutting hard to the net. Neither the covering defenseman or Halverson’s poke-check stopped Engvall from sliding the puck home for a highlight reel goal.
Once again, Toronto shot themselves in the foot as they gave up a tying goal less than two minutes later. An error from MacMaster while the Marlies were on the power play led to a 2-on-0 break for Hartford, and Fogarty made no mistake to tie the game up at 2-2 heading into the final 20 minutes.
Toronto regrouped in the intermission and proceeded to dominate the opening three minutes of the third period.
Sam Gagner forced Halverson into a good save and Andreas Borgman would have scored if he was able to corral a pass that got caught up in his skates.
The early momentum was halted by a boarding call, and while the Marlies were able to kill the penalty thanks to a handful of excellent stops from Hutchinson, it took the wind out of their sails for a while.
Most of the best scoring chances came in the final seven minutes as the two teams pushed to find a winner. The Marlies were dictating the majority of the play but were unable to solve Halverson on their best looks, with Rosen denied from the slot after a sustained spell of cycling in the Hartford zone.
The dagger to the Marlies’ hearts arrived with a little under four minutes left on the clock as a shot from Ryan Lindgren appeared to hit a combination of Vincent LoVerde’s skate and Hutchinson’s pad before sitting kindly for Tim Gettinger to Hartford ahead for the first time.
Facing a team that had won just one of its last 11 games, the nerves were apparent as Toronto spent the majority of the remaining time camped in the Hartford zone. A tying goal wasn’t in the cards, however, as the Marlies slipped to a regulation defeat that results in them sliding back to fourth in the North Division.
Post Game Notes
– Pierre Engvall had a strong first game at center, scoring his 13th of the season, and this might be an experiment that continues with Toronto’s current lack of depth down the middle.
– Rasmus Sandin recorded his first point since returning from injury (a secondary assist) and registered three shots on goal.
– Colin Greening is day-to-day with an illness but could return by the weekend.
– Chris Mueller is going to miss an extended period of time, at least weeks, with no definitive timeframe as per Sheldon Keefe.
– Wednesday’s lines: