“At the end of the day, it’s just not a good enough effort to come into a building like this against a top opponent in our division, have that kind of start, and put our goalie under that kind of pressure. Not good enough.”
I don’t always agree with Greg Moore’s post-game evaluation, but this time he was bang on the money. The 4-1 scoreline heavily flattered the Marlies, who were opportunistic, relied on stellar netminding, and were flat out lucky on several occasions throughout the game on Friday night.
The opening frame was played at a furious pace dictated by the Amerks, who dominated puck possession.
The Marlies were guilty of turning the puck over on numerous occasions through the opening eight minutes. They didn’t turn into goals against thanks to Källgren, who made one particularly sharp sliding save on Michael Mersch.
The veteran forward then wasted the best chance of the opening frame. Mersch was left on his own in the slot with the goal at his mercy, but he put his backhand attempt wide of the target.
Toronto could not make use of a power play, recording just one shot on goal, before normal service resumed at 5v5.
Linus Weissbach was the next Amerks forward to be afforded time and space in the slot area. For the umpteenth time, Toronto dodged a bullet.
Very much against the run of the play, the Marlies capitalized on their second power-play opportunity. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev took possession at the blue line and skated downhill a few feet before releasing a slap pass into the slot area. With his stick on the ice, Brett Seney’s deft redirect snuck the puck past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
The Amerks must have wondered how on earth they were trailing after 20 minutes. They outshot Toronto 11-4, created three high-danger scoring chances of those recorded shots, and whiffed on at least three more opportunities in and around the slot.
Toronto began the middle fame on the penalty kill and almost doubled their lead back at even strength. Kirill Semyonov escaped on a breakaway but was denied by a pad save.
Rochester continued to take undisciplined penalties, but Toronto could not capitalize for a second time. In fact, the Amerks almost turned the momentum of a kill into a goal on a 3-on-2 break, but J.J Peterka was the next player to be stonewalled by Källgren.
The Amerks’ continued domination at 5v5 earned them a power play, but they still couldn’t get themselves on the scoreboard. The impressive Jack Quinn created a fantastic opportunity in tight, but Toronto’s Swedish netminder continued to get the better of the Amerks shooters.
The Marlies were hanging on for dear life toward the end of the period as they clung onto their narrow 1-0 lead. That was until they yet again registered a timely late-period tally. A long punt down the ice was chased down by the deceptively swift Semyonov, who got his head up early and picked out Josh Ho-Sang with a perfect pass in front. The red-hot winger scored his sixth of the year with a confident finish.
Rochester needed a fast start to the period to gain a foothold back in the game and liven up the home crowd. They received that boost less than four minutes into the final stanza when a drop pass from Sean Malone was picked up by Peterka, who was building up a head of steam in the defensive zone.
The rookie sped his way past four Toronto skaters, with only Alex Biega left as the last man back. The veteran defenseman didn’t engage the forward or give his goaltender a clear sightline on a wicked shot that found the roof of the net.
Källgren only had to make two saves of note to seal victory as Rochester missed the target on a pair of gilt-edge scoring chances. The worst offender was Malone, who was found all alone in the slot by Peterka. He got Källgren to bite early on a deke but sent his backhand shot wide of an open net.
Toronto cemented the two points with a pair of empty-net goals in the final minute courtesy of Mikhail Abramov and Alex Steeves. More telling is that head coach Greg Moore trusted the rookies at a critical juncture in the game while protecting the lead.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies‘ third straight win moves them up to third place in the North Division.
– Josh Ho-Sang is scoring at an unsustainable rate with a 37.5% shooting percentage. That being said, he rarely shoots from above the top of the circles and does a great job of getting on the inside for high-danger scoring chances. His sixth goal of the season arrived in just his seventh game, leaving him just four shy of his season career-high of 10 set in his rookie AHL season.
– With a power-play tally, Brett Seney recorded his fifth goal of the year. Like Ho-Sang, he’s dealt purely in goals rather than assists, and the goal broke a four-game scoring slump for him.
– Speaking of assists, Kirill Semyonov recorded a pair of helpers and is now the Marlies’ leading scorer with eight points (1-7-8).
– Last but not least, this was a redemption performance for Erik Källgren, who was shelled the last time these teams met (pulled after allowing four goals on seven shots). He benefited from some luck and substandard finishing at times, but Källgren stole this game for Toronto, and it might not be the last time he has to if the Marlies continue to deliver lifeless performances like this one.
“He was really impressive, not only in this game but given the circumstances prior to this,” said Moore. “To have the resiliency to come back against this team and single-handedly win this game for us… He was great tonight. He put on a clinic. It was really good to see him respond like that against this team.”
– Friday’s lines:
Seney – SDA – Anderson
Steeves – Semyonov – Ho-Sang
McMann – Abramov – McKenna
Kopacka – Michaelis – Gabriel
Král – Biega
Dahlström – Hollowell
Rubins – Duszak