Only twice this season have the Toronto Marlies managed to string two or more consecutive wins together.
They never looked likely to follow up on Thursday’s victory in this game. It was a turgid performance back on home ice with no fans in the stands and little energy on the ice.
Over 14 minutes passed before Toronto recorded their first shot of the game. It took a four-minute power play for the Marlies to finally test Kevin Mandolese.
Joey Anderson should have opened the scoring on an excellent backdoor feed from Alex Steeves, but he somehow missed what was essentially an empty net.
Erik Källgren kept Toronto in the game with nine saves in the opening period, including a pair of excellent stops on Parker Kelly.
Källgren came up huge inside the opening three minutes of the middle frame — frustrating Belleville’s Jake Lucchini and Rourke Chartier — but he was finally beaten with 5:42 on the clock. The Swedish goaltender couldn’t hold onto a shot from Maxence Guenette through traffic before Roby Jarventie found the net with a top-shelf backhand finish on the rebound.
The Senators should have doubled their advantage at the midway mark, but Källgren came up with a flying save to deny Mark Kastelic on one of many odd-man rushes for Belleville.
Toronto mustered just four shots through the first half of the second period, all from the perimeter. It took 30 minutes for Greg Moore to juggle the lines, which felt overdue considering how badly his team was struggling to create anything at 5v5.
The Marlies created only two scoring chances of note, both during special-teams play. The first was a shorthanded opportunity for Joey Anderson; Seney was the architect of a 2-on-1 break, but Anderson didn’t elevate his shot and Mandolese slid to his left to make the pad save.
Toronto’s struggling power play came close to connecting inside the final five minutes when Mikhail Abramov delivered a delightful feed into the slot for Bobby McMann. Usually a clinical finisher from those kinds of positions, McMann buried his shot into the crest of Mandolese for a comfortable save.
The Senators would have carried a 2-0 lead into the break if not for another outstanding stop by Källgren. Cedric Pare appeared odds-on to score after Belleville orchestrated a 3-on-2 break during a power play and tore Toronto apart with a tic-tac-toe passing move.
The Marlies recorded just 14 shots on goal heading into the second intermission.
The Marlies were an improved team and a great deal more competitive in the final frame. Granted, it wasn’t a high bar to clear after the first 40 minutes.
Curtis Douglas exited the penalty box five seconds into the final frame and should have scored moments later. He caught an errant floated pass, settled the puck down for himself in the slot, and wired his effort wide of the target.
A power play for Toronto then provided action at both ends. The Marlies gave up another odd-man rush, with Källgren performing more heroics to deny Chartier twice.
The Marlies rewarded their Swedish teammate with a tying goal on the man advantage. A rising shot from Filip Král was redirected down by Abramov, whose deft touch was enough to confound Mandolese between the pipes.
Kyle Clifford’s decent chance to give Toronto the advantage at the eight-minute mark was turned aside by Mandolese before Belleville retook the lead at the midway mark. An innocent-looking shot toward goal from below the right goal line from Chartier somehow snuck through the equipment of Källgren.
The goaltender was visibly upset with himself after an uncharacteristic error, but Toronto still had 10 minutes to find a tying goal. In truth, the Marlies never really looked likely to claw back again and were lucky not to fall further behind.
Cole Reinhardt’s golden opportunity to seal the victory on a breakaway with five minutes remaining was turned aside by a recomposed Källgren, who bounced right back and kept his team within reach.
Toronto’s best chance to tie the game fell to Douglas 60 seconds later when a giveaway presented him with the puck alone in the slot, but the towering forward again failed to hit the target.
After Källgren was pulled from the net inside the final two minutes for an extra attacker, curiously, Douglas was the extra skater sent out to help find the tying goal. The Marlies failed to muster one shot on target with six skaters on the ice, slipping to a 2-1 defeat.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies’ lone tally was just the second goal of the season for Mikhail Abramov. Greg Moore pointed out an interesting stat in the post-game presser about Abramov: “In terms of the guys that hadn’t scored yet in this league, he has some of the highest expected goals for, so he’s been a bit unlucky at times.”
– The insistence on deploying Curtis Douglas as a top-six forward is becoming silly at this point. There’s little chemistry with his regular line-mate Josh Ho-Sang, who thinks the game and skates on another level to Douglas. This is not a dig at Douglas, who is being misused in a role that doesn’t suit his skill set.
– I suspect many will blame Erik Källgren for this loss, but I am loath to blame a goaltender who has been superb for the majority of this season. Källgren’s .923 save percentage is good for ninth in the league and his play has been a major reason why the Marlies still own a winning record this season.
“He was great,” said Moore. “He has bailed us out in a lot of situations in this one contest, let alone in past games. He should feel good about the work he has put in and not worry about that.”
– Brennan Kapcheck and Zach O’Brien have been reassigned to Newfoundland. Chad Krys rejoined the Marlies from the taxi squad.
– Saturday’s lines:
Seney – Suomela – Anderson
McMann – Douglas – Ho-Sang
Clifford – Der-Arguchintsev – Steeves
Kopacka – Abramov – Gogolev
Král – Dahlström
Krys – Rubins
Hellickson – Hollowell