The task facing the Toronto Marlies was a daunting one.
Providence Bruins entered this encounter with an impressive 16-3-3 home record having not lost at home in regulation since mid-November, including seven wins in their last eight games.
Despite the huge challenge ahead of them, the Marlies started fast and were undoubtedly the better team in the opening frame, with the Bruins limited to just three shots on net in the opening 20 minutes.
Adam Brooks had the first real scoring chance of the game at the eight-minute mark, but he whistled his effort high from between the hash marks.
The opening goal arrived just before the 11-minute mark via an innocuous play. After Trevor Moore took possession just inside the red line an beat two opponents down the left wing, with no support arriving, the winger let fly from an acute angle and the puck found the twine off of the glove of goaltender Zane McIntyre.
Unfortunately for the Marlies, the Bruins netminder was perfect from there on in.
Providence had three excellent opportunities to tie the game before the period ended, but Michael Hutchinson stood firm to turn aside Gemel Smith and Ryan Fitzgerald following turnovers from Dmytro Timashov and Moore, respectively.
Toronto failed to make a power play count despite an extended spell of puck possession inside the Bruins zone, and a lack of puck luck back at even strength meant their lead heading into the intermission remained at just one.
The middle frame began with Providence causing Toronto all kinds of problems with a strong forecheck and cycle game that the Marlies had no answer for until the pressure relented thanks to a Bruins penalty.
It wasn’t much help for the Marlies, who gave up a shorthanded goal for the second straight game. Steven Kampfer put home a pass from Lee Stempniak with the five Marlies all switched off inside their own zone.
Toronto almost reclaimed the lead with a shorthanded goal of their own, but Colin Greening was turned aside by McIntyre on a 2-on-1 break.
Moments after a near miss for Providence — the Marlies cleared the puck off of their goal line after a partial save from Hutchinson — the Bruins took a deserved lead. Directly off of a faceoff win, Stempniak found the net with a shot from the left circle that Hutchinson wanted back.
Toronto’s goaltender redeemed himself with a pair of saves late in the period to keep his team in the game, but the damage had already been done.
It took less than six minutes for the final frame for Providence to add an insurance mark and all but secure the two points — a weak shot towards the net by Anton Blidh was intended to find Kampfer, who missed an attempt to redirect the puck, but Hutchinson let the puck through him as a bad evening got worse for the Marlies netminder.
The story of the game for Toronto was plenty of possession and extended time in the offensive zone that was all on the perimeter, with little traffic generated to impede McIntyre when Toronto shot from distance.
The Marlies also failed to capitalize on their third power play of the game and rarely troubled the Bruins goaltender even after pulling Hutchinson with three minutes remaining.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies have now lost three straight games (0-2-1) and have allowed Belleville and Cleveland to close within two and fours points, respectively.
– Toronto lost both games of the season series with Providence and were outscored 8-1 in the process.
– With his 21st goal of the season, Trevor Moore recorded his 34th point in 41 games. He’s now surpassed his previous best single-season AHL high.
– Calle Rosen registered his 33rd assist with the secondary helper on Moore’s goal. The defenseman is ranked fourth amongst all skaters for assists and tied amongst all blue liners for point leader with 39.
– Timothy Liljegren returned to action on a pairing with Rasmus Sandin.
– Colin Greening was also back after missing the last game through illness.
– Friday’s lines: