“A frustrating hockey game.”
That was Greg Moore’s first sentence in his post-game presser. He honestly could have left it there.
There were moments when the Marlies were the better team and controlled play, but too many lapses of concentration and special teams struggles ultimately sunk them in a 5-4 loss to Binghamton on Saturday.
With Parker Gahagen making his debut between the pipes for Toronto, you would have hoped the team would rally around its rookie goaltender. That wasn’t the case, however, as the call-up from Newfoundland was forced into making a wonderful save to deny Brett Seney just 75 seconds in.
The Marlies took the lead with a speculative wrist shot from Pontus Aberg just a few feet across the blue line that beat Gilles Senn through a screen.
Gahagen then ensured the Marlies lead stayed intact with a fantastic right pad save to deny Nathan Bastian in alone on goal.
Hudson Elynuik came the closest to doubling the lead for Toronto on some nice interplay between him and Rich Clune, but missed assignments defensively allowed Binghamton to tie the game at the 11-minute mark.
After Mikhail Maltsev waltzed his way into the slot unchallenged, Gahagen produced another right pad save initially, but Chris Conner worked the puck back to Maltsev, who scored top shelf.
Toronto wasted one power-play, but they earned a second to begin the middle frame.
The worst possible start to the period saw the Marlies give up a short-handed goal inside 57 seconds. A clearance was chased down by Ben Street, who beat Pontus Aberg to the loose puck and got a shot off. Gahagen pulled off the first save, but his teammates were nowhere to be seen as Bastian scooped up possession and beat the rookie netminder with a low finish.
A Marlies‘ tying goal arrived at the five-minute mark out of the blue — Aberg applied the slightest of deflections on a long-range effort by Kevin Gravel.
Binghamton then retook the lead a little over two minutes later on what was essentially a power-play goal. Just five seconds after Michael Kapla exited the box, no one in a Marlies sweater picked up Janne Kuokkanen as he screamed toward the net and scored from point-blank range on a perfect feed from Conner.
Thankfully, the call-ups from Newfoundland have yet to let Toronto down — Riley Woods tied the game at three apiece with his first-ever AHL goal. The Saskatoon native drove into the high slot from the right side and beat Senn with a good wrist shot.
Toronto went to the power-play within 21 seconds of the final frame, but they created nothing with the extra man before Matt Lorito was tabbed for hooking. The officials then played their part in Toronto’s downfall with a very ambiguous cross-checking call on Matt Read to hand Binghamton a 5-on-3 power-play.
The Marlies survived being down by two skaters, but five seconds after Lorito exited the box, Ben Street netted his 14th of the season to put the Devils up 4-3.
Toronto again responded positively by tying the game less than two minutes later on another long-range blast from Gravel.
Despite the Marlies controlling the majority of possession and creating better scoring opportunities, Binghamton took home the two points with a goal three minutes from the end of regulation.
Teemu Kivihalme got beat Janne Kuokkanen down the wing despite the Devils forward being on his backhand, and Kuokkanen threw the puck on goal from a bad angle. While Gahagen made the initial save, no one wearing a white jersey picked up Conner, who slid the rebound in off the far post.
As Toronto laid siege to the Devils’ net in the final minute, it appeared as though Lorito had rescued a point with a last-gasp goal, but it was ruled that time had elapsed — the correct decision upon further review.
It was a devastating finish for the Marlies. Despite a much-improved performance, they got what they deserved after too many defensive mistakes and getting taken to school on special teams.
Post Game Notes
– The season is now on the line as Toronto has lost five of the last six and now find themselves six points back of fourth-placed Syracuse. Anything less than taking seven of eight points this week against opponents Texas Stars, Belleville Senators and Syracuse Crunch (twice) will mean Toronto is very likely to find themselves out of playoff contention unless other results go their way.
– Toronto went 0-4 on the power-play and allowed one short-handed goal. Binghamton netted once on their three opportunities with the extra skater.
– Kevin Gravel registered a goal, one assist, and led all Marlies skaters with four shots.
– Pontus Aberg netted twice to break a four-game pointless streak.
– Parker Gahagen was left out to dry in his Toronto Marlies debut. The five goals against were not an indictment of his performance.
– Saturday’s lines: