The Toronto Marlies suffered a second-straight loss to a North Division opponent on Saturday, and they only had themselves to blame.
The Marlies spotted the visiting Belleville Senators a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes and were playing catch up for the remainder of the game.
Belleville were handed two breakaway opportunities inside the opening seven minutes, with Rudolf Balcers and Morgan Klimchuk both denied by Joseph Woll.
The Senators also had a power-play opportunity in the early going, but Toronto’s struggling penalty kill stepped up and didn’t allow Belleville a shot on goal.
Somewhat surprisingly, Kristians Rubins had the best two scoring opportunities for the Marlies in the first period, but the defenseman wasn’t able to capitalize on either before Belleville struck first with seven minutes remaining — Joseph LaBate beat Woll with a long-range effort through a screen that the rookie would want back.
The Senators doubled their lead three minutes later during a 5-on-3 power play, with Erik Brannstrom netting his first of the year.
Adam Brooks really should have halved the deficit on a rebound opportunity, but his finish wasn’t there, allowing Joey Daccord to make a spectacular if fortuitous save. That was the main story of the opening frame — Toronto recorded fourteen shots in total but failed to make them count, including numerous second opportunities.
Belleville didn’t pose much of a threat offensively through the middle frame, but the Marlies were guilty of not generating enough scoring chances from the inside ice despite owning the puck for long periods.
It took a two-man advantage on the power play for Toronto to finally register on the board — Kenny Agostino potted his 14th goal of the season — but the Marlies still found themselves in need of another third-period comeback this season to take anything from this game.
The final frame began with two dubious penalty calls by the officials, one for each team, although neither side struck with the extra man.
It was then a procession to the penalty box for Belleville, who took five straight penalties. It should have been their undoing, but the Marlies failed to make them pay, registering just 12 shots through the final 20 minutes and five from the slot area despite an absurd amount of man-advantage time.
An insurance marker by Drake Batherson following a defensive breakdown with six minutes remaining broke the Marlies’ resolve, and Belleville added a late empty-net goal to give them a flattering 4-1 victory
Post Game Notes
– Back-to-back losses have sent the Marlies out of top spot in the North Division, with Rochester overtaking them on points (40 pts to the Marlies’ 37) in the same number of games played (26).
– The Marlies were totally wasteful with the man advantage as they went 1/9 on the power play. Petan was short on recent touches in the halfwall role, but the whole unit struggled.
“For the whole game basically at 5v5, I really liked our game,” said AJ MacLean. “The third period there — we got five power plays and have to make one of those count. That’s really the difference in the game.”
– Nic Petan recorded a secondary assist on Toronto’s only goal in his return to the Marlies lineup.
– Kenny Agostino’s 14th goal of the season was his fourth power-play marker. He’s tied for the team lead in that category with Egor Korshkov.
– On the subject of Egor Korshkov, the Russian forward remains out of action after suffering a leg laceration last Saturday against San Antonio.
– Saturday’s lines: