This game perfectly encapsulated the talent difference between the pipes of these two teams.
Legitimate NHL prospect Mikhail Berdin was outstanding in turning aside 43 shots, almost half of which came in the opening frame. With no disrespect intended to Andrew D’Agositini, the career ECHL’er was unable to come up with the big saves when Toronto needed it most.
The opening period was a tale of missed opportunities and ridiculous saves.
Berdin was called into action just 80 seconds into the game, turning aside an effort from Rourke Chartier following a give-and-go with Nick Robertson. Colt Conrad and Joey Anderson were the next to be denied before Manitoba scored immediately following Anderson’s effort.
Berdin’s pad save on Anderson flew out to the right boards, where a swift transition play led to a breakaway. After Tyler Graovac sent Bobby Lynch in alone on goal, D’Agostini came out to challenge the shot, but Lynch beat him comfortably with a low finish.
Toronto responded by attacking in waves and drawing the game’s first penalty. After the power play couldn’t convert, the Marlies were unable to find a way to turn their possession and territorial advantage into a goal.
Tyler Gaudet, Timothy Liljegren, and Chartier were all robbed by tremendous stops from the Russian goaltender, who turned aside all of the 19 shots he faced in the first period.
Guilty of a little bit of a passive mentality during the first half of the second frame, Toronto paid the price for the dropoff in performance. Cole Perfetti really should have scored less than a minute in, but he wired his shot high on a 2-on-1 rush.
Manitoba established their two-goal advantage just before the midway point of the game.
After the Marlies lost two battles following an offensive zone faceoff, the Moose quickly transitioned for another 2-on-1 break. Graovac was again the provider, this time teeing up Nathan Todd, who slid the puck through D’Agostini’s five-hole.
Toronto responded positively — drawing a penalty — but the resulting power play led to more frustration. Kenny Agostino had three good looks, but Berdin made save after save.
The resistance was finally breached with three minutes remaining in the middle stanza.
Scott Pooley’s shot from the top of the right circle was tipped by Teemu Kivihalme and the rebound was finished off by Hudson Elynuik.
A defensive zone turnover just 40 seconds into the third period should have seen Manitoba reestablish their two-goal cushion, but Lynch rattled his shot off the crossbar.
Two minutes later, it looked for all money that Elynuik was going to score a second and tie the game. The towering centreman broke in on a breakaway and seemingly had Berdin beat with a nice move, but a last-ditch toe save kept Manitoba’s lead intact.
Another power play led to more frustration for Agostino as maybe Berdin’s best work came on this save. Agostino could only shake his head in disbelief after being robbed for the umpteenth time.
The straw that ultimately broke Toronto’s back arrived with a little over 10 minutes remaining. From the left wall, just inside the blue line, Joona Luoto lobbed a knuckleball shot high toward the goal, where D’Agositni was bemused as the puck nestled into the back of his net.
Toronto threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the Moose for the remaining time on the clock. Even when faced with a penalty kill, the Marlies were threatening as Liljegren almost scored the first shorthanded goal of his career.
Greg Moore went for broke by pulling D’Aogistini with over four minutes left on the clock, followed by a Moose penalty. On the resulting power play, the Marlies opted for the extra skater and it paid dividends as Adam Brooks’ attempted feed across the blue paint found the net via a defenseman’s skate.
There was still 1:57 left for the Marlies to pursue a tying goal, but it never arrived. In too many instances, they were looking for the cute, intricate play rather than putting pucks on target with bodies crashing the net.
Graovac sealed the first victory of the season for Manitoba with a dribbling shot into the empty net that just evaded the back-tracking Liljegren.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto out-shot Manitoba 45-19, with 16 of the Marlies’ 18 skaters recording at least one shot on goal. “Overall, I thought the team played well,” said Greg Moore. “I thought Berdin kind of stole the show today. But we stayed with it. We were resilient. We kept coming back. There was no feeling on the bench that the wind in our sails was gone. Proud of the team for that.”
“I thought this was the best game of the three so far for the d-core at as a whole. We defended the lines well through the middle of the rink. We were doing our jobs defensively in the d-zone. We were really owning the corners. We didn’t spend a ton of time in our d-zone.”
– An assist for Timothy Liljegren kept his three-game scoring streak intact (0-4-4) as he remains Toronto’s leading points scorer. The defenseman recorded five shots in this outing, matched only by Justin Brazeau.
– On the first goal, Hudson Elynuik scored his first of the year, while Teemu Kivihalme and Scott Pooley picked up their first assists of the season.
– Nick Robertson recorded four shots on goal, but this was probably his least effective performance of the three so far this season.
– Andrew D’Agostini will know he should have done better on the second and third goals.
I have a hard time lambasting a goaltender thrust into this situation, however. Despite his lack of AHL experience, he has performed admirably up until this point.
– The Toronto Marlies have signed goaltender Angus Redmond to an AHL contract. He was with the Newfoundland Growlers last year and had been playing for Kansas in the ECHL this season.
– Thursday’s lines: