The Toronto Marlies produced a good effort at 5v5, but squandered scoring opportunities and special-teams struggles led to a 3-1 defeat to the North Division-leading Belleville Senators on Tuesday night.
The Marlies are now 5-15-2 since December 8 and are on the outside of the playoff picture.
Toronto started on the front foot, drawing the game’s first penalty just over two minutes into the opening frame. While they weren’t able to capitalize with the extra man, the Marlies make good on their dominant start just a few minutes later.
Egor Korshkov drove down the right-wing and faked going around the net, confusing Joey Daccord between the pipes before the big Russian forward tucked it home from behind the net.
An inability to hold onto leads has been one of many downfalls for the Marlies during this miserable stretch, so it wasn’t shocking to see Toronto give up the tying goal just two minutes later.
As Belleville worked to keep possession in the offensive zone, Toronto failed to clear their lines on three clear-cut opportunities. A turnover by Nic Baptiste along the boards led to Logan Brown and Vitaly Abramov teeing up Rudolfs Balcers alone in front.
A penalty shot for Baptiste following a halted shorthanded breakaway was as close as the Marlies came to netting a second. The Senators ended the opening 20 minutes firmly in control of the game and could’ve been ahead by a couple if they were more clinical with their opportunities.
An ugly incident occurred four minutes into the middle frame: Down on his knees and scrambling to gather himself, Korskhov was cross-checked hard into the boards headfirst by Brown. It was a reckless hit for which the Belleville forward was rightfully assessed five-and-a-game. Thankfully, Korshkov emerged from the incident okay.
The Marlies had extended periods of 5-on-4 power-play time and even a two-man advantage at one point, but the power play failed to finish off numerous second opportunities that were available on rebounds.
To make matters worse, the Marlies gave up a short-handed goal after they handed the Senators a 2-on-1 break, with Jordan Szwarz making no mistake past Joseph Woll.
Belleville then showed Toronto how it was done with a power-play tally later in the period, dealing the Marlies a dagger blow.
Toronto showed a little fight to begin the final frame, but at the key moments, they just weren’t clinical enough. Adam Brooks was particularly guilty of letting a gilt-edged scoring chance pass him by, while a sixth power play went to waste.
Belleville coasted to victory after withstanding the first half-dozen minutes as the Marlies were limited to just eight shots on goal.
Post Game Notes
– Greg Moore continues to mention the improvements in the team’s performance at even strength, which is partially true, but the same old errors in puck management and incredibly poor special teams are holding this team back badly.
“If we’re looking back at the four games before tonight, we are starting to build a lot more consistency in our five-on-five play,” said Moore. “Special teams have plagued us a little bit and tonight was a part of that again. There are still positives to build on. It doesn’t happen overnight. We are going to keep going.
– The Marlies are now 15 points adrift of first-place Belleville following this loss. The Marlies remain one point back of Laval (4th) with one game in hand.
– Egor Korshkov now has two goals in his last three games and is ranked third in goals on the Marlies with 11 tucks through 30 games.
– Tuesday’s lines: