The Toronto Marlies were back in competitive game action for the first time since April 10.
With 13 games scheduled in the first 20 days of May to finish up the regular season, we should expect a constant shuffle of lineup changes.
Toronto was competitive in this first outing in almost three weeks, but old habits are proving hard to kill this season as the Marlies made a mess of things defensively after erasing a 2-0 deficit.
Feeding off of the adrenaline from their return to the ice, the Marlies came flying out of the gates, pinning Belleville in their zone for the majority of the first half of the period. The Marlies recorded five of the first six shots of the period as Mads Sogaard earned his keep between the pipes for Belleville.
The best chances fell to Gordie Green and Bobby McMann inside the opening two and a half minutes, but neither was able to find a way past the Belleville goaltender. Toronto also earned the first power play of the game, but they generated little of note, and the momentum switched thereafter.
Belleville should have scored seconds after Egor Sokolov exited the box — he was sent in alone on goal by Angus Crookshank — but Joseph Woll got enough of the shot to turn it aside.
Making his Toronto debut, Pavel Gogolev put on an impressive first-period showing. Another nice play from the former Pete teed up McMann for a one-time shot that brought a good save from Sogaard with three minutes remaining in the first period.
Woll stood firm in the Marlies net to keep Belleville off of the scoreboard despite the Senators dominating the majority of the play following the penalty.
The middle frame has often been the Marlies‘ downfall this season, and this game was no exception.
The officials weren’t helping matters following a terrible call on Joseph Duszak just 64 seconds in. Crookshank was denied twice on the power-play — once by Woll and then by a good block by Calle Rosen — and there was some justice in that outcome.
After wasting a pair of gilt-edge chances around the five-minute mark, Toronto paid the price with almost seven minutes on the clock. Duszak was indecisive when leading a wasted 3-on-1 rush, followed by Noel Hoefenmayer teeing up Tyler Gaudet in the slot — a nice heads-up play by the rookie — and the veteran totally whiffing on the chance.
A combination of poor goaltending and missed assignments in the defensive zone led to Belleville taking over the game.
Woll came out to clear the puck, but he failed to clear the zone and handed possession directly to Egor Sokolov, who dished off to Joseph LaBate. With the Marlies slow to react defensively after the turnover, LaBate’s cross-ice pass found Jean-Christophe Beaudin, who made no mistake with his finish at the backdoor.
Duszak found himself back in the box at the nine-minute mark, and while Gaudet almost scored shorthanded on a good individual effort, Toronto was lucky not to fall further behind as Belleville carved them open on multiple occasions.
The Marlies wasted a second power play before falling behind 2-0 late in the period. Mac Hollowell wasn’t sure enough on the puck under pressure from Logan Brown and Nic Petan casually made a one-handed play on the puck at the side of his own net before Brown sent the puck back to Jonathan Aspirot. From just above the hash marks, the Belleville defenseman rifled a shot past Woll.
Despite the final result, at least Toronto showed some pushback to begin the final frame.
A stick check by Kenny Agostino in the defensive zone initiated a 2-on-1 break for the Marlies’ veteran forward, and there is nobody on the Marlies’ current roster you would prefer over Agostino in that situation. The veteran goalscorer made no mistake with an emphatic far-side finish.
30 seconds later, Toronto tied the game at 2-2 just 2:28 into the period when an excellent long stretch pass from Martin Marincin sent Duszak off to the races down the right wing. The 23-year-old beat the outstretched Senators goaltender with a confident backhand-forehand deke.
Toronto then came within millimeters of taking the lead, but Gogolev’s effort rang the iron.
What did I say about old habits at the beginning? Toronto then promptly threw away their hard work as Belleville regained the lead less than two minutes after the Marlies tied the game.
Beaudin netted his second of the game on a rebound as Toronto made a mess of their sort outs in a 3-on-4 situation for the Senators.
The game was essentially over as a contest with a little under eight minutes remaining. Belleville worked the puck back to the point, where a shot by Lassi Thomson was brilliantly tipped by Cole Reinhardt from the high slot.
There was a little in the way of a response from Toronto, with a Rourke Chartier one-time effort the only real test for Sogaard to handle.
A comical empty-net goal for Belleville made it 5-2 after what must have been crossed signals on the timing of pulling Joseph Woll from his net.
A goal from Petan with one second left was the definition of a consolation prize as the Marlies fell to a fourth straight defeat.
Post Game Notes
– Kenny Agostino scored his eighth goal of the season, with six of those coming in his past nine games.
– Joseph Duszak equaled his goal tally from last season with his third goal of the campaign. “He’s very elusive, jumps up in the play all the time, and he’s very offensive,” said Greg Moore. “He makes a lot of reads to make teammates around him better offensively. He should up tonight on the scoreboard creating chances.”
– Pavel Gogolev made his long-awaited debut, and there was a lot to like about the performance. Listed at 6’1”, he seemed to play bigger than his size, shielding the puck well and showing no hesitance about engaging physically or shooting the puck when the opportunity presented itself — something the Marlies could use more of up front. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses — he was too easily beaten in the defensive zone on the third Senators goal — but overall, it was a promising debut.
“I was really happy with him,” said Moore. “First and foremost, it was how hard he worked. He did some good things with the puck. In the second period, he was really strong on his skates, driving wide and trying to take the puck to the net. For a first look at this level in this league, he should feel really good about his effort.”
– This was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Joseph Woll, whose puck playing skills were again badly exposed at the AHL level this season. He’s now allowed 14 goals in his last three starts, and it’s not entirely due to bad defensive coverage in front of him.
In nine outings, Woll has posted a save percentage above .906 in just three of them.
– Greg Moore switched the lines up in the third period when it was all too late. Sheldon Keefe was always keen to stay fluid with his lineup, and it was clear certain combinations weren’t working in this game after 20 minutes.
– Saturday’s lines: