After failing to match the intensity and pace of Binghamton through 40 minutes of play, the Toronto Marlies almost pulled off another improbable comeback. This time, it was too little, too late.
A pair of regulation losses to Binghamton means Toronto is clinging onto the fourth spot in the North Division by a single point. The Marlies have games in hand on the rivals below them in the standings, but all their games this month are against divisional opponents.
While they were the second-best team from the outset, Toronto was able to generate some scoring opportunities as Giorgio Estephan, Colt Conrad and Riley Woods all came close.
Poor decision making in their zone nearly cost Toronto if not for Joseph Woll springing into action and making a pair of good saves to keep the Devils off the board.
The Marlies then opened the scoring with almost eight minutes on the clock with a nicely-worked goal that began with a terrific shift from the fourth line comprised of Newfoundland call-ups. After a shot-come-pass toward the net by Joseph Duszak was flicked to his left by Tyler Gaudet, Matt Read was on hand to finish from point-blank range.
It should have been a platform to build on. Instead, Toronto gifted Binghamton a tying marker just 75 seconds later as Marian Studenic was allowed to ghost in from the right-wing and beat Woll with a low shot.
The tide had officially turned as Binghamton was toying with the Marlies and appeared as if they could score at will.
Egor Sharangovich was given all the time in the world to measure his effort from the high slot to put the Devils up 2-1 before the Binghamton surged into a two-goal lead with a late power-play tally.
Toronto wasted a power-play just 30 seconds into the middle frame, and from that moment on, they were clinging on for dear life.
Nathan Bastian netted a second power-play goal for the Devils, who now led 4-1 inside 25 minutes and really should have been up by four, five or more through 40 minutes.
Woll was doing his best to stem the bleeding, but Binghamton almost rued a plethora of missed opportunities. Michael McLeod and Jesper Boqvist missed empty nets and the former also struck the post in the final minute when left all alone in the slot.
Toronto yet again wasted a power-play to begin a period, but they began to claw their way back into the game with five minutes passed.
It was nothing more than a solid forecheck by Nic Baptiste, but on this occasion, Toronto won a battle and the puck fizzed back out to Estephan at the hashmarks. The skilled RW made a delightful move around one defender before applying an inch-perfect backhand finish to bring Toronto within two.
That goal put some life into the legs of the Marlies. Baptiste, in particular, came agonizingly close on an individual effort at the midway mark, but Gilles Senn turned him aside twice.
Another solid forecheck and won board battles led to the Marlies‘ third goal. After some hard work from Gaudet, Mac Hollowell teed up Garrett Wilson, whose close-range slap shot was met by a brilliant save from Senn. On hand to tuck home the rebound was Matt Read for his second of the game, and now Toronto had just over five minutes to find a tying marker.
Toronto was handed another power play but failed to take advantage and somewhat surprisingly, Greg Moore opted for the early pull of his goaltender. It backfired when Matt Tennyson scored from almost 200 feet away to secure a 5-3 victory for Binghamton.
Post Game Notes
– Yet again Toronto lost out in the special teams battle, going scoreless on four power-plays, while Binghamton went 2-for-3 with the extra skater.
– Matt Read registered his first multi-goal game this year and now has six goals in as many games, taking his season total to 11.
“His whole line (Wilson-Gaudet-Read) has been carrying the team as of the last few games,” said Moore. “They play with a ton of energy and take away time and space. You can tell they are starting to gain more confidence and are starting to make plays with the puck, which is great to see. They have some chemistry together and play had for each other.”
– Giorgio Estephan scored his first goal for the Toronto Marlies and his second-ever AHL tally having scored for the Rochester Americans back in 2016.
– Call-ups from Newfoundland accounted for five of the bottom six forwards in this game.
There was some mixing and matching to finish the game, but the likes of Colt Conrad, Riley Woods and Giorgio Estephan made a strong impression.
“I gave them a little more ice time tonight,” said Greg Moore. “It was that kind of game and I wanted to. I wanted to see more of them. They played really well and made plays. They were part of the reason we started to come back there towards the end and starting to look like more of a confident team. Good signs for the development of the organization.”
– Wednesday’s lines: