The Toronto Marlies have now allowed 41 goals in the last nine games while picking up just three points over that span.
It was another slow start for Toronto, who were fortunate to still be in the game heading into the first intermission. Manitoba ran roughshod over them, recording 20 shots on goal in the opening frame.
C.J Seuss brought one of the best saves out of Joseph Woll, who turned aside the attempt with his blocker. Nicholas Jones and Cole Maier were both frustrated on successive attempts in tight before Woll’s resistance was finally broken at the 13-minute mark.
It was a frustratingly simple goal to give up as Toronto overcommitted on Nathan Todd entering the zone with the puck and nobody picked up the trailer on the play. Defenseman Hayden Shaw had too much time to weigh up his effort from the high slot and put the Moose up 1-0.
The Moose weren’t letting up, and they were only denied a second goal by a fantastic athletic save from Woll. A battle along the wall ended with Manitoba winning possession before a chip pass into the slot found Maier all alone. He looked odds on to score, but Woll pulled off a tremendous stick save after throwing himself to his right.
There was no respite for the Toronto goaltender — next, he robbed Jeff Malott, who drew a penalty on the play.
Toronto killed the penalty and created their best chance of the game in the process after Jeremy McKenna exited the box and was immediately sprung on a breakaway. Mikhail Berdin made a tremendous pad save on the Marlies rookie, but he also took a penalty by holding onto McKenna’s stick to deny a rebound opportunity.
The resulting power play failed to garner a tying marker, and in truth, the Marlies were counting their blessings to only be trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Toronto owned a big advantage on the shot clock through the middle frame (15-3), although high-danger scoring chances came at a premium.
A tying goal arrived as early as 28 seconds in when a Mikko Kokkonen shot from the point resulted in a huge rebound that Kenny Agostino scrambled home despite Berdin’s best efforts.
At the five-minute mark, Nic Petan ran his effort off the far post with Berdin beaten.
Toronto was then thankful for the iron at the other end of the ice after they were caught napping on a swift transition play by the Moose. The Marlies were scrambling, but Peter Kreiger struck the short-side post.
With a little under two minutes remaining on just their third shot of the period, Manitoba re-established a one-goal lead. Todd netted his 10th of the season on a 3-on-2 break for the Moose, who took a 2-1 advantage into the final frame.
Normal service was resumed to begin the third period. After Manitoba pinned Toronto in their defensive zone for a straight two minutes, the exhausted Marlies skaters were indebted to their goaltender, who made an important stop to fight off an effort from Seuss.
After a hooking penalty by the Moose gave Toronto a reprieve, they capitalized on the opportunity, although not until the Moose almost scored while shorthanded on a 3-on-2 break — Woll yet again stonewalled Maier.
The Marlies‘ tying marker was a brilliant individual effort from one of the least experienced players on the team. After Pavel Gogolev gathered speed through the neutral zone, there weren’t many options open to the rookie on his backhand, but he beat Berlin from an acute angle with a beautiful top-shelf, short-side finish.
Manitoba responded with a power-play tally of their own with eight minutes remaining when Reichel scored short-side from the right circle after a spell of pressure left Woll unable to fully reset.
Three minutes later, the Moose built a two-goal advantage. Nathan Todd, enjoying a breakout campaign for Manitoba, threaded an inch-perfect pass to David Gustafsson for Manitoba’s fourth of the game.
After another fantastic save from the Marlies goaltender kept his team within striking distance, the Marlies went for broke early by pulling Woll, and it paid off. A rocket of a one-time shot from Bobby McMann found the top far corner of Berdin’s net.
It was quite the way to score your first AHL goal, but it turned out to be no more than a consolation marker for the Marlies. They were unable to exact any pressure on the Moose before a too-many men penalty resulted in Manitoba seeing out the game comfortably in their third-straight victory over the Marlies.
Post Game Notes
– Joseph Woll was the sole reason this game remained in the balance until the final minute. He posted 34 saves despite taking the loss, and his last two starts have been highly encouraging.
“He has come a long way since last year,” said Greg Moore. “He held us in this game. His ability to move laterally, he is so explosive and is in such good shape… He is starting to read plays more, anticipate better, get to his spots, and be set for those shots a little bit quicker… He is very quiet, goes about his business, and is one of our hardest workers. Guys really love playing for him.”
– Pavel Gogolev recorded his first two-point haul with the tying goal in the third period and a primary assist on Bobby McMann’s first AHL tally.
“There have been spurts in the games that he’s played where he has shown his skill set and his ability with the puck to create offense,” said Moore. “It was an impressive goal he scored to come down the wing that fast and go backhand short side. We have seen him do some things in practice. Now we are starting to see it every game just a little bit more consistently.”
– On the blueline, Mikko Kokkonen recorded his third assist in five games, and Kristians Rubins returned to action after missing almost five weeks due to injury.
– Sunday’s lines: