“We didn’t come out with the tenacity and level of compete we needed… We can’t have a first period like that.”
Those are press conference quotes we’ve heard too often from the lips of the Toronto Marlies head coach Greg Moore this season.
The ease with which the Marlies allowed a pair of shorthanded goals on the same power play was difficult to watch, as was the Marlies‘ overall effort in the opening 20 minutes of this second consecutive loss to the Belleville Senators.
Toronto was fortunate not to fall behind inside 60 seconds. A 2-on-1 break ensued after debutant Mikko Kokkonen was easily beaten by Parker Kelly, but Veini Vehviläinen came up with an incredible glove save to keep Belleville off the board.
It was only a matter of time before the Senators opened the scoring, though, and the first goal arrived on their sixth shot with 7:39 on the clock. Logan Shaw stepped around Filip Kral at the top of the left circle and tried to find Angus Crookshank at the far post, where Crookshank outbattled Joseph Duszak to score from the blue paint.
Toronto waited until a power-play opportunity at the 8:29 mark to record their first shot of the game. On the same man advantage, the Marlies scored with their third shot on net, a blistering one-time shot by Duszak that leveled the score at 1-1.
The tying goal came against the run of play, but might it spark the Marlies?
It did not. Newcomer Antti Suomela drew a Toronto power play, but what followed was a total implosion by the Marlies.
A lost battle along the boards resulted in four Toronto players on the wrong side of the puck. With Pavel Gogolev beat up the ice in the footrace, Jean-Christophe Beaudin raced away on an odd-man rush and found Kelly for a backhand finish.
The unthinkable soon followed: A second short-handed goal against on the same power play. A lost puck battle allowed Belleville to clear the zone, but a miscommunication led to nobody in a Marlies sweater corralling the loose puck in the neutral zone amid a partial line change. Joseph LaBate broke in on goal and made no mistake with a confident finish.
Toronto should have found themselves down 4-1 inside 13 minutes, but LaBate fired wide from the slot with the whole net to aim at.
The Marlies did generate two breakaway chances of note while the deficit was still at two goals. Kalle Kossila struck iron with his effort, while Calle Rosen forced Sogaard into a blocker save.
Belleville scored once more before the end of the period to take a 4-1 lead into the first intermission. Toronto was caught scrambling in their own zone when a shot from Lassi Thomson rebounded off the end boards to Cole Cassels standing by the side of the net for an easy tap-in.
Greg Moore believed Toronto was much more competitive in the second and third periods.
That wasn’t a high bar to aim for, but in truth, they were still far from sharp in the middle frame.
Egor Sokolov wasted a breakaway chance five minutes in, although some credit is due to Vehviläinen, who continued to battle and made another huge save despite little help from the team in front of him.
Toronto was profligate with two straight power plays, including 38 seconds of a two-man advantage as the second period turned into somewhat of a special teams battle, with four players heading to the box in seven minutes.
It’s fair to say that Kokkonen was a deer caught in the headlights during the opening 20 minutes, but the Finnish defenseman grew into the game in his debut. His inch-perfect outlet pass sent Rosen in alone on Sogaard, where the defenseman drew a penalty shot.
The Belleville netminder denied Rosen for a second time and pulled off another good save on Noel Hoefenmayer on a rebound chance with two minutes remaining in the middle frame.
Toronto never really threatened to erode Belleville’s three-goal lead in the final frame, with two penalties inside the first eight minutes taking a lot of the wind out of their sails.
The Senators sat back and soaked up virtually everything the Marlies threw at them, with Sogaard making only one save of note on the 13 shots he faced — Kenny Agostino’s nice play teed up Nick Robertson in tight, but the rookie winger couldn’t solve the Belleville netminder.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto has now lost five straight games, allowing 25 goals in the process.
– As per Todd Crocker, “Two SHGs against in one game had not happened since 2010 and two on the same power play had not happened before in Marlies’ history. The team has never allowed more than two SHGs in a game and only allowed two in a game on two other occasions in the regular season.”
– Making their Marlies debuts in this game were Veini Vehviläinen, Brennan Kapcheck, Mikko Kokkonen, and Antti Suomela.
He may have given up four goals, but Veini Vehviläinen had a very good game without much support in front of him. It’s a credit to him that he didn’t implode mentally after a first period in which his teammates let him down in spectacular fashion.
“I am sure he wasn’t happy with how the first period went,” said Moore. “I hope he understands that we as a team didn’t play very well and the chances we gave up were really challenging. It wasn’t like he let in any bad goals. What was really promising was how solid and confident he looked even after the first period. He really hung in there and finished the game strong, which shows to his character and how mentally tough he is.”
– Joseph Duszak scored his second goal of the weekend and fourth this year, surpassing his tally last season.
– Sunday’s lines: