“They’re coming in on the back of a 3-on-3 and we just let them have their way with us.”
Those were the post-game words from a visibly frustrated Jeremy Bracco after the Belleville Senators once more stole valuable points from the Marlies on Sunday despite Toronto being the fresher team, having played one fewer game over the weekend.
The Marlies have won just once in regulation against the Senators this season and really should have taken two points from this game.
“It was a very sleepy game on both sides, and we kind of expected it with their team given what they had been through this weekend with the 3-in-3 and travel and all of that,” said Sheldon Keefe. “But certainly I expected better from our team. It was just a very nonchalant hockey game all the way through. That played right into their hands and what they needed this game to be like. Pretty disappointing from our end.”
The first nine minutes of the opening frame featured very little goalmouth action, but the Marlies had the better sights at net. Colin Greening tipped a shot from Vincent LoVerde on the wrong side of the twine with Marcus Hogberg beaten quickly followed by an even better opportunity for Sam Gagner, but the Vancouver forward unable to get all of his shot from the crease after a good set-up from Moore.
The game’s first power play saw Belleville strike just 21 seconds into the man advantage.
Drake Batherson was clinical from the blue paint with Kasimir Kaskisuo a little unfortunate to get beaten in tight after a tough bounce.
The Senators took full control of the game at that point, with Toronto unable to deal with an aggressive fore-check and cycle game that Belleville were employing, albeit the Senators didn’t have anything to show for their dominance.
It took until the final two minutes of the period for the Marlies to finally wrestle back control, eventually leading to a somewhat fortunate equalizer. After Martin Marincin picked up an intended clearance, with 1.4 seconds left on the clock, he found the bottom corner of the net.
The middle frame was almost exclusively controlled by the Marlies, but they failed to turn their dominance in possession and offensive zone time into a goal.
Instead, the Senators seized on a gift of a chance presented to them after the Marlies failed to clear the puck past the red line on multiple occasions before turning the puck over in a bad spot. A scramble in front of Kaskisuo ended with the goaltender out of position and Darren Archibald finishing into the vacant cage.
Toronto killed the lone penalty of the period and squandered perhaps their best scoring chance of the penalty shortly afterward — Pierre Engvall exited the box and joined the rush but fired wide with the whole net to aim at from the slot.
After a disappointing middle frame, the Marlies got off to the perfect start to the third — Chris Mueller tipped home a blast from the point by Marincin to draw level just 11 seconds into the period.
Chances were arriving thick and fast for the Marlies, but they couldn’t find the go-ahead goal. Andreas Borgman rang a shot off the crossbar with Hogberg beaten and Mueller somehow failed to apply the finishing touch with the puck laying prone in the crease.
The almost redundant Kaskisuo wasn’t called into action until the seven-minute mark, when he needed to be alert to deny Batherson of a second goal after a turnover by Calle Rosen.
The Marlies had to wait until the 50th minute for their first power play and they made it count — Gagner and Mueller set up Bracco to score at the far post to put Toronto up 3-2.
The lead lasted just two minutes as the Marlies frustratingly gift-wrapped the Senators a tying goal. A series of lost battles along the wall ended with Archibald finding Adam Tambellini alone in front, where the Belleville forward easily scored his 11th of the season.
The Marlies responded in the right fashion by pressing hard for the remainder of regulation, but the resilient Senators held on to claim one point that then became two in overtime.
The extra frame lasted just 65 seconds as Logan Brown breezed past a lead-footed Gagner before roofing his shot past Kaskisuo.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies extended their points streak to six games (4-0-2) and remain third in the North Division.
– Chris Mueller surpassed the 50-point mark with a goal and an assist (24-27-51). This was his fourth consecutive multi-point game.
– A third consecutive multi-point haul for Jeremy Bracco (1-1-2) puts him one point shy of hitting 50 points through 48 games.
– Martin Marincin was the third player to record two points (1-1-2) and while he put together a solid overall performance, it was his error that led to the second Belleville goal.
– Andreas Borgman and Gabriel Gagne led all skaters in shots with six and five, respectively.
– Sunday’s lines: