A three-in-three following the Christmas festivities is hardly ideal scheduling for the Toronto Marlies, but they only had themselves to blame for allowing a North Division rival to steal two points on Boxing Day.
Neither head coach would have been happy with the way their teams played defensively in the opening 20 minutes; there could have easily been five or six goals on the board after the opening frame.
Kenny Agostino was unable to corral the puck and fire into a vacant cage inside 30 seconds before Belleville opened the scoring on their first foray into the Toronto zone.
It was a moment to forget for rookie Joseph Woll, who made a toe save to stop a speculative backhand shot by drake Batherson from an acute angle but then failed to smother or clear the loose puck, which Josh Norris finished off.
Toronto’s response was almost immediate as Matt Read, Tyler Gaudet and Nic Baptiste all went close on a terrific shift by the trio.
The Marlies almost found themselves down 2-0 despite driving the majority of the play. Vitaly Abramov somehow missed the net after deking past Woll before Norris was robbed by the Toronto netminder with a blocker save on what was essentially a 2-on-0.
The chances kept coming without a finishing touch as Martin Marincin found himself denied on a wraparound attempt by a last-ditch stick by a defenseman with Daccord flailing in net. The Senators goaltender rode his luck once more, making a save on a breakaway on Agostino.
Toronto finally tied the game at the seven-minute mark with some help from the Senators. A turnover straight to Jeremy Bracco in the right circle is never a good idea, and the right winger wasted no time setting up Agostino alone in front to slot home the tying marker.
The Marlies had to kill the only two penalties assessed during the opening frame, but they had further chances to take a lead heading into the intermission — Mason Marchment and Nic Petan had the best of them, but the Marlies‘ lack of finish in front of the net meant the teams were deadlocked after 20 minutes.
The Marlies should have put the game to bed in the middle frame, but a whole host of missed scoring opportunities allied with a letoff in the last five minutes of the period meant Belleville held the advantage heading into the second intermission.
A power-play marker from Adam Brooks gave Toronto a lead they really should have built on. The best chances fell to Pontus Aberg, who planted the puck into Daccord’s glove with the entire net to score into, while Tyler Gaudet was also guilty of a similar miss as the Marlies swarmed the Senators in the first seven minutes of play without a goal to show for it.
Two goals in as many minutes by Belleville late in the period then dramatically altered the direction of the game. Jordan Szwarz tapped in a pass from Drake Batherson during a 4-on-3 power play for the Senators, who then added a shorthanded marker as they swung the game in the special teams battle.
Some lazy backchecking from Toronto’s first power-play unit allowed Szwarz to coast into the Marlies’ zone and he dished off to the open Jack Dougherty, who scored just his second of the season.
Far too often of late, the Marlies have found themselves in need of a third-period comeback to take anything from the game, which is obviously not a recipe for continued success.
Much like the second period, the Marlies were in control of the play but could not make hay on several excellent scoring chances inside the opening minutes.
After Gaudet hit the post just 90 seconds in, sustained puck pursuit created a turnover and Read couldn’t chip the puck over the sprawled Daccord, who continued to ride his luck, even when down and out.
Brooks should have scored his second on a backdoor feed but didn’t get enough on his effort, allowing the Senators goaltender the time to slide across the crease to make the save.
Another excellent feed from Bracco — this time from the left circle — should have led to a goal, but Ben Harpur couldn’t control the pass with his skate and Daccord smothered the puck.
A huge save by Woll to deny Alex Formenton on the breakaway kept Toronto hopes alive before a power play with a little over six minutes remaining provided the Marlies with one last chance to push hard for a tying marker. Kalle Kossila and Tanner MacMaster were both denied by Daccord, while Petan and Aberg also went close as desperation began to set in.
That desperation manufactured itself in the form of a lack of discipline for Mason Marchment, whose tripping penalty took the wind out of the Marlies back at even strength.
Toronto failed to muster much more offensively even after pulling Woll for the extra attacker. A third loss in four games puts even more importance on upcoming doubleheader on the road against Laval beginning on Friday evening.
Post Game Notes
– Two of Toronto’s four home losses have been suffered at Scotiabank Arena this season.
“Just couldn’t find the back of the net, but in terms of process and results, I thought the second and third periods were a step in the right direction for the team,” said Greg Moore.
– Kenny Agostino netted for the third straight game to take his season goal total to 16 in 26 games.
– Jeremy Bracco recorded a pair of primary helpers, which gives him 21 assists this season in 30 games.
– Adam Brooks netted his eighth goal of the season to extend his point streak to four games (2-2-4).
– Nic Petan’s secondary assist on the power-play goal was his tenth of the year and 13 point (3-10-13) in just seven AHL outings.
– Thursday’s lines: