Coming off of hard-earned victories against Laval, this was a letdown performance from the Toronto Marlies in Belleville on Wednesday night.
For the umpteenth time this season, the Marlies failed to turn up in the opening frame and found themselves down 4-0 inside 17 minutes.
The warning signs were inside from the opening minute when Angus Crookshank sent a gilt-edge chance just wide of the target with only Joseph Woll to beat.
Belleville made their domination count at the five-minute mark with a tally that looked more like a practice routine rather than a goal scored during competitive action. Egor Sokolov had all the time in the world to tee up Joseph LaBate crashing hard to the net, where he only had to apply the finishing touch.
30 seconds later, it was 2-0. A turnover behind Toronto’s net by Colt Conrad proved costly as Jean-Christophe Beaudin found the net with a backhand shot.
Senators goaltender Mads Sogaard wasn’t tested until the nine-minute mark of the period when Scott Sabourin put his initial shot wide and scooped up the rebound to tee up Tyler Gaudet in the slot.
A rare mistake from Timothy Liljegren at the Sens blueline then led directly to the third Belleville goal. Sokolov led a 2-on-1 break and beat Woll with a low shot inside his far post.
Greg Moore chose that moment to pull Woll after allowing three goals on eight shots, although it was surely more of a message to the team than the goaltender, who had clearly been let down by his teammates.
Veini Vehviläinen was thrown to the wolves and somehow robbed Parker Kelly as Belleville toyed with Toronto during a spell of four-on-four action.
The fourth goal arrived via another odd-man rush, with Clark Bishop netting just his second goal of the season.
A flubbed one-time shot from Joseph Duszak appeared to be Toronto’s last chance of the period to undo some of the damage — until Filip Kral floated a shot from the blue line that beat Sogaard clean, with Senators goaltender possibly losing the puck through a screen.
In truth, the goal was more than Toronto deserved, but they gained a small foothold in the game heading into the intermission.
It wasn’t too big of a surprise to see Belleville take their foot off the gas after running roughshod over the Marlies in the first period.
After a turnover by Sokolov at the Marlies blueline allowed Toronto to create a 3-on-1 heading toward the Belleville net, Pavel Gogolev showed poise in selling the goaltender on an intended shot before setting up Noel Hoefenmayer for a tap-in.
For the first time in the game, Toronto earned sustained possession in the offensive zone, leading to a third goal. After a series of quick passes and positional interchanges had Belleville chasing the puck, Scott Sabourin scored with a slap shot from the point.
After getting themselves within one, Toronto almost threw away the bulk of their comeback efforts. Mikko Kokkonen threw a pizza up the middle of the defensive zone, but Vehviläinen came up with an important glove save on Cole Cassels to keep his team in the game.
The Marlies had chances to tie the game at 4-4 — Sabourin and Gaudet fired efforts just off target with Sogaard struggling, and Gordie Green was frustrated after he was robbed from the slot with three minutes left in the period.
A trio of late stops by Vehviläinen allowed Toronto to head into the intermission within range of completing the comeback.
The Marlies did a bad impersonation of a team trailing by one goal in the third period. There was little urgency to their game, and the standard of their second-period play did not carry over. After both teams failed to capitalize on power-play opportunities, the game appeared to be slipping away from Toronto.
That was until a little under five to play in regulation when the Marlies scored on just their second shot of the period. After a booming hit from Sabourin along the left boards freed up the puck, Bobby McMann and Mikko Kokkonen combined to send in Kalle Kossila alone on goal to tie the game up at 4-4.
It took Toronto just 94 seconds to give it right back. In a carbon copy of the first goal, Parker Kelly restored Belleville’s lead, and the Senators clinched victory with an empty-net goal shortly after.
It was a frustrating way to end a four-game winning streak, but perhaps it’s not unsurprising from a Marlies team that has shown Jekyll and Hyde tendencies all season.
Post Game Notes
– Filip Kral scored his first AHL goal and first-ever point for the Toronto Marlies. “It’s impressive how quickly he has adjusted to this level, and how quickly he has implemented a lot of our concepts, details, and systems,” said Moore. “He has been playing a lot more confident with the puck. In talking to him, he has started to understand the timing and the space. You can tell, with the puck right now, he is starting to see things a little bit slower, which is really good… He has been getting better and better with every rep and every game so far.”
– Noel Hoefenmayer recorded his first professional multi-point haul (1-1-2) with a goal and secondary assist.
– Kalle Kossila extended his points streak to eight games (3-8-11) by scoring the seventh goal of this campaign.
– Wednesday’s lines: