“The team played a full 60 minutes. The energy was really good… Overall, it was exactly what we wanted, especially in the third period.”
– Greg Moore
This wasn’t a perfect performance by the Marlies, but it was a massive improvement over their standard of play last weekend. A much-need victory broke a three-game losing slump, albeit it comes with the caveat that they were facing a Senators team that was only able to dress nine forwards, seven defensemen, and was without the services of Alex Formenton.
Toronto outshot Belleville 12-10 in the opening frame, but the Senators arguably created the better scoring chances.
The best of those fell in the last four minutes of the period when Logan Shaw struck the post with a rasping drive after Toronto broke down defensively.
Soon after, a mistake by Martin Marcinin allowed Mark Kastelic to wind-up a slapshot that forced a good save from Joseph Woll, who then had to pull off an even better stop on Cole Reinhardt in tight on the same shift.
The middle frame was a story of the Marlies finding an advantage in the margins. It took just 19 seconds for the deadlock to be broken in rather odd circumstances.
Shaw thought a face-off in the Belleville zone was going to be retaken, but the officials allowed play to continue, and Jeremy McKenna’s shot snuck through the pads of a bewildered Kevin Mandolese.
It wasn’t a particularly busy period for Toronto’s goaltender, but he came up with the important saves when needed. The Senators almost responded immediately through Kastelic on a feed from Egor Solokov, but Woll tracked the play and made a good save.
Toronto’s faltering penalty kill stepped up to the plate in the second period, even when faced with a two-man deficit.
Remember those small margins I mentioned? Belleville hit the iron on Toronto’s final penalty before Toronto struck short-handed with just two seconds remaining in the kill.
Olivier LeBlanc’s attempted clearance around the boards from behind his own net was cut off by Joey Anderson, who drove into the slot before beating Mandolese with a tremendous bar-down finish.
As Greg Moore mentioned in his post-game presser, Toronto did an excellent job of shutting down Belleville in the final 20 minutes, limiting the Senators to just seven shots on goal.
Toronto created a couple of scoring opportunities to ice the game, none better than Kalle Kossila’s individual effort to drive to the net and shoot on the turn, which was thwarted by an excellent reaction save by Mandolese.
Scott Pooley sealed the two points with an empty-net goal from an acute angle with 1:12 remaining.
This victory is a step in the right direction, but the key is finding a level of consistency game-to-game that has eluded Toronto so far this season.
Post Game Notes
– Joseph Woll may have only faced 23 shots in his shutout, but this was undoubtedly his best performance of the season to date. He gave up next to nothing in the way of rebounds and second opportunities, was sharp tracking the puck through traffic, and made four key saves with the game still in the balance.
– Jeremy McKenna featuring on the Marlies‘ top line is not something I would have predicted before the season, but these are strange times. The rookie has a goal in three straight games and didn’t look out of place at all alongside Nic Petan and Kenny Agostino.
“From day one, in the first game that he played, it was really impressive how despite very little time to absorb our systems and details, I couldn’t think or find a single thing he didn’t execute,” said Moore. “With the puck, he is very smart and responsible. He understands game management — where the shift is at, where the game is at, the time on the clock.
“He is very cerebral — scans, finds his teammates before he gets the puck, knows what he is going to do with it. That allows him to play fast. Along the walls, he protects it, doesn’t throw it away, and makes a sure play.
“All of those things compound into game after game of him getting more opportunity because he’s trustworthy and doing things the right way. Now he is finding himself with scoring opportunities. We have found in practice that he can really shoot the puck as well.”
– Joey Anderson scored his second short-handed tally of the season and now has a point in four of his last five games.
“He brings it every game and he competes so hard,” said Moore. “It is nice to see him rewarded tonight with a goal after making some of the sacrifices, putting in the effort, and doing the things that help win a hockey game.”
– Leading all skaters with five shots: Kalle Kossila. The Finnish forward’s shooting percentage is a ridiculous 3.6% at the time of writing resulting in just the one goal to his name, but more performances like this will lead to a breakthrough eventually.
– His name didn’t feature on the scoresheet, but Timothy Liljegren was excellent in his return in all three zones. Toronto is a different team when the Swedish defenseman is in the lineup.
– Wednesday’s lines: