“It wasn’t the result we wanted, but as a staff, we were really excited about the response our team had right from the start of the game. They stuck to a game plan and were very diligent with wanting to execute it. The effort and process were there. We are very proud of the guys tonight.”

Toronto Marlies head coach Greg Moore

Playing their 12th game in 20 days, the Marlies put up a valiant fight but fell short against a Stockton team that has now won four straight against Toronto.

First Period

Toronto got off to the start they needed after being picked apart on Friday evening. On a power play just 85 seconds in, the Marlies generated some good looks, although they were unable to seize the early lead despite out-shooting Stockton 6-0 in the opening stages.

Against the run of play, the Heat opened the scoring at 4:35 on the clock with a goal that had a ton of good fortune to it. After Connor Zary tried to send a pass out to the slot area from behind the Toronto net, the puck appeared to deflect off Kristens Rubins’ stick and possibly off the back of the defenseman before lopping past Andrew D’Agostini.

It might have gone from bad to worse three minutes later with Teemu Kivihalme in the box for cross-checking. Stockton has scored almost at will on the man advantage against Toronto this season, but on this occasion, the penalty kill stood tall. The Marlies created the best chance of the Stockton power play through Hudson Elynuik, who won a foot race  while chasing down a nicely-weighted clearance and was denied by Sparks’ pad save.

17 seconds after killing the penalty, Toronto tied the game up at 1-1. Joseph Duszak sent Rourke Chartier in alone on Sparks, where Chartier finished confidently past the glove hand of the former Marlies goaltender.

Toronto doubled up Stockton on the shot count 12-6 in the opening frame. While there was no further scoring, the Marlies had a lot more to feel good about after 20 minutes than they did on Friday evening.

Second Period

Toronto held their shot advantage throughout the second period, but they failed to turn it into goals.

Their best opportunity to nose ahead came seconds before Stockton retook the lead when Tyler Gaudet maneuvered his way into the slot and was turned aside by Sparks. Scott Pooley gambled in hopes of picking up the rebound and lost the bet, leaving four Toronto skaters on the wrong side of the puck. Emilio Pettersen scored on the subsequent odd-man rush, although D’Agostini’s angle could have been better as he was beaten short-side top shelf.

The Marlies created few clear-cut scoring opportunities, couldn’t capitalize on a power play late in the period, and trailed by one as a result heading into the final 20 minutes.

Third Period

Somewhat unexpectedly, Toronto turned the game on its head in five minutes. From the far left side of the neutral zone, Kalle Kossila picked out Alex Galchenyuk on the opposite wing as he gained a step on Carl-Johan Lerby. Galchenyuk cut across the Stockton defenseman and sent a low shot past Sparks into the far corner of the net.

It was the perfect start just 66 seconds in, and the Marlies gathered some momentum off of the goal. A power play didn’t provide the breakthrough, but off-setting penalties moments later led to some four-on-four action that seemed to suit Toronto perfectly.

Kivihalme — who has developed an eye for goal this season — received a pass Galchenyuk by the goal line and drove across the crease before sliding the puck in behind Sparks.

The Marlies appeared to be pretty comfortable with the lead — even despite a couple of penalties taken in succession by Calle Rosen — until a little over two minutes to play when they suddenly and completely imploded. A blocked shot in the Stockton zone allowed to Heat to break quickly in transition and the Marlies did not sort out their assignments tracking back as Zach Leslie scored in space from the slot.

It was very much the same story with 1:31 left on the clock as Toronto lost the plot defensively. Despite winning a defensive zone faceoff, Toronto failed to clear their lines, with Kivihalme guilty of a giveaway in behind his net. The defensive zone coverage was loose again from the Marlies as Alex Petrovic redirected a shot from the point unchallenged.

Post Game Notes

– After such a heavy schedule to begin the season, Toronto finally now has a week off to rest and take advantage of some extended practice time.

“It’s going to be really big for us,” said Moore. “It has been a lot of games, which is really good for the development of the guys — to feel the grind, push through, get a lot of game reps knowing they’ve all been starving to play games for a long time. But it’s going to be really good to get some rest and work in practice to help us move forward.”

Teemu Kivihalme‘s two-point outing (1-1-2) moved him up to eight points through 12 games. He’s also shooting the puck more this year, up at almost two per game compared to last season’s 1.29 mark.

Alex Galchenyuk also registered a two-point haul, including his first AHL goal. As a newcomer to the organization, he should really benefit from a week of practice with the Marlies.

“He has come in here and has bought in from day one,” said Moore. “He has been a great teammate. His competitiveness is permeating through the locker room. He came into this game like a man on a mission. You could tell in the second intermission that he wanted to be the game changer. He went out there and stepped up in a huge way. He is a special player. We are just going to look for him to continue to build confidence and have an impact and continue to find consistency in his game as well.”

Angus Redmond continued to back up Andrew D’Agostini despite the latter looking fatigued, at least in my opinion. By the time Toronto plays again, it might be possible that Joseph Woll has been returned to the Marlies. If that’s not the case, how will Greg Moore handle his goaltenders? Your guess is as good as mine.

Rourke Chartier has had several good chances this season and it was a due reward to see him finally bury one. “We were pumped for him to get that goal tonight,” said Moore. “I know he had probably be in his head a bit wanting to get that first one. He has had plenty of chances. He knows he had been getting the chances. You’d be more concerned if he hadn’t been. He’s a very talented, reliable, and smart player who has been a great addition to our team this year.”

Nick Robertson is considered day-to-day with an oblique injury.

– Saturday’s lines:




Game Highlights: Heat 4 vs. Marlies 3

Greg Moore Post Game: Heat 4 vs. Marlies 3