The scoreline was closer on paper, but this was another shoddy performance from the Toronto Marlies regardless of how much more competitive Greg Moore thought his troops were.
The Marlies have now allowed four or more goals in seven of their last eight games.
Watching this team is starting to feel like groundhog day. The game started with another first period where Toronto was not fully engaged, leading to a 1-0 deficit just 38 seconds in.
After a sloppy D-to-D play behind the net led to a Marlies turnover under limited pressure, Cole Maier found Trent Borque at the point with time to weigh up his options. His shot appeared to be tipped in front (although it wasn’t credited as such), and Manitoba led 1-0 already.
The Moose should have at least doubled their lead inside two minutes, but Kristian Reichel missed the target all alone from the slot on a fantastic feed.
The Marlies replied with a tying goal at the five-minute mark after an attempted clearance was knocked down by Martin Marincin and Bobby McMann shifted the puck down low to Tyler Gaudet. There shouldn’t have been much danger for the Moose with Gaudet a few feet from the end boards, but the veteran forward made a slick toe-drag move around his defender and drove across the crease before a 360 spin led to a low finish that was hard to read for goaltender Mikhail Berdin.
A hard-working shift from Nick Robertson two minutes later resulted in Toronto taking the lead. His effort to regain possession and hold onto the puck under pressure bought time for him to find Noel Hoefenmayer at the point. The rookie defenseman’s shot produced a rebound off Berdin, and Robertson was credited with the final touch to put the Marlies up 2-1.
Andersen made two saves of note in the opening frame — first, he denied Westin Michaud, who attempted a between-the-legs finish when in alone on goal. He then rejected a Cole Perfetti power-play effort that would have been a blow to the Marlies after Robertson almost scored his second of the game on a shorthanded breakaway moments earlier.
Toronto failed to hold onto their advantage, conceding a tying marker similar to the opening goal. Another turnover and more missed assignments allowed Haralds Egle to almost stroll in from the point to the right circle and beat Andersen with a wrist shot that found the net via the inside of the post.
The Marlies’ penchants for slow starts to periods hurt them again in the middle frame. A turnover in the offensive zone led to a 2-on-2 break led by standout rookie Cole Perfetti, who used Mac Hollowell as a screen and ripped a pinpoint shot into the far top corner of Andersen’s net.
If Hollowell felt he could have done more to shut down Perfetti, he made amends 36 seconds later. With Manitoba collapsing down low, Kalle Kossila set up Hollowell from just above the circles, where the defenseman unloaded a big slapshot finish.
After the teams exchanged a power-play apiece without success, it looked as if the score would remain 3-3 heading into the final period. Teemu Kivihalme had other ideas, though, as he sent a wrist-short from above the right faceoff dot past Berdin, a goal that owed as much to the screen of Rourke Chartier as it did the accuracy of the shot.
A 4-3 lead for Toronto was a fortuitous one, to say the least, given the balance of play, but the opportunity to right the ship and record a victory was right out in front of them in the final frame.
As expected, the Moose came out and pushed hard early in the final frame of regulation, dominating the first five minutes. Andersen made the four saves required of him before the Marlies got some respite thanks to Gaudet, who orchestrated a breakout up ice that drew a penalty. Robertson came close again on the ensuing power play, this time hitting the post.
The tying goal for the Moose arrived with a little over ten minutes remaining. It bore similarities to goals one and two, with C.J Suess getting himself on the scoresheet.
There were 16 shots recorded in the remainder of regulation, with Toronto responsible for 10 of those. Manitoba had the better scoring chances, however, and Andersen pulled off two exceptional saves in the dying seconds to ensure Toronto claimed at least a point.
The extra frame was thrilling even though nothing rested on the fate of the victory. Kossila attempted a solo mission that he almost pulled off before Kenny Agostino struck the post.
At the other end, David Gustafsson nearly won the game for the Moose, but Andersen came up with another huge stop to send the teams to a shootout.
Kossila found the net for Toronto in the skills competition, but Manitoba prevailed with two successful attempts on Andersen.
Post Game Notes
– Frederik Andersen would like two of the goals back in today’s game but as the game progressed he did find a little of his old form with some spectacular saves. He made 34 saves and certainly wasn’t lacking in work as Toronto was a tire fire in front of him for the majority of this game.
To put playing for the Marlies in context this season, it’s been a graveyard for goaltenders — the seven who have seen game action this year have a combined save percentage of .882.
– Mac Hollowell recorded a two-point game (1-1-2), but it masked a poor defensive performance in this one.
– Nick Robertson looked to have found his spark after a few games where he hasn’t looked like himself. He now has goals in back-to-back games.
– Saturday’s lines: