“It’s a good sign when a group like this, at this time of the year, is starting to mature quickly as they are,” said Marlies head coach Greg Moore after Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over Belleville.

In previous Marlies seasons, a four-game winning streak was little more than a footnote. For this group under Moore, it represents their best stretch of hockey during his tenure and the longest winning streak of the season.

This win owed much to Toronto’s dominance in the special teams battle and an excellent performance between the pipes by Erik Källgren (save one bump in the road).

First Period

The Marlies got off to a promising start with plenty of possession time in the opening two minutes, but they failed to turn it into a scoring chance of note. That all changed on their first power play with 3:37 on the clock.

On two occasions, Filip Král did really well to keep the puck inside the Belleville zone under pressure from Belleville’s aggressive penalty kill. On the second occasion, the defenseman was able to free the puck down low for Antti Suomela, who found Joseph Blandisi on the goal line. Belleville lost their structure and numbers on the initial puck battle, leaving them exposed for a cross-ice feed from Blandisi that was finished off by Semyon Der-Arguchintsev’s one-timer.

With the Marlies unable to build on their early goal, the momentum began to sway toward the Senators. Toronto stopped moving their feet, and in stark contrast to the opening stages of the period, appeared more intent on a dump-and-change approach rather than gaining the zone with control.

The Senators earned themselves two power plays and could not score on either, while Toronto earned one more opportunity but failed to unlock the Belleville penalty kill for a second time.

The best chance to extend the lead fell to Mikhail Abramov just above the blue paint on a fee from Alex Steeves, but Filip Gustavsson was equal to the Russian forward’s effort, keeping the Toronto lead at 1-0 through 20 minutes.

Second Period

A promising opening to the period by the Marlies appeared as if it would be undone by their struggling fourth line. Hemmed in their zone, Toronto gave up three high-danger scoring chances and only survived thanks to the brilliance of Källgren and an undisciplined slashing penalty by Matthew Wedman.

The Marlies made the Senators pay on the resulting power play. After struggling to get set up in the zone, it was a slightly fortuitous zone entry that led to the second goal. The puck was swiftly transferred to Král in the left circle, where he wired a shot from the dot that beat Gustavsson at his far post for the Czech defenseman’s first of the season.

Toronto allowed 14 shots on goal in the remaining 14 minutes of the middle frame, but they emerged unscathed thanks to more brilliance from Källgren. The Swedish goaltender robbed Egor Sokolov with a blocker save, denied Logan Shaw in tight on a beautiful dish from Andrew Agozzino, and turned aside four separate efforts from the threatening Roby Jarventie.

Despite getting outshot 18-9 in the second period (26-20 overall), the Marlies held a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes of play.

Third Period

The Marlies were reliant on their goaltender inside the opening 90 seconds of the final frame. Rourke Chartier was a frustrated figure after Källgren turned him aside twice. When the former Marlies forward then turned provider, Källgren shut the door on Agozzino.

A defensive breakdown allowed Shaw a partial breakaway approaching the two-minute mark, but once again, Källgren came to his team’s rescue. The Marlies’ luck ran out at 4:01 played.

A rookie mistake from Alex Steeves at the Belleville blue line resulted in an odd-man rush back toward the Toronto goal. To Belleville’s credit, they worked the situation perfectly, and Lassi Thomson gave Källgren no chance with his finish from the slot.

The response from the Marlies was immediate. Josh Ho-Sang picked up possession in the Toronto zone and went off to the races, brushing off Sokolov’s attempt to stop him before breezing by Chartier in the neutral zone. In alone on goal, Ho-Sang outwaited the diving Cody Goloubef, drew Gustavsson out of his net, and set up a tap-in goal for Bobby McMann just 24 seconds after Belleville drew within one. It was a timely sequence of speed, skill, and vision from Ho-Sang.

The result felt still very much up in the air, but Källgren again made another good save as Belleville pushed hard for another goal during four-on-four action. Chris Wilkie could only find the glove hand of the Swedish goaltender after receiving a pass between the hash marks.

And then it happened — a totally freak play.

After Sokolov dumped the puck in from the red line and headed off to the bench, he didn’t even turn to watch the result of the play as the puck took a wicked bounce — perhaps deviating as much as two feet to Källgren’s left — and found the net behind the shellshocked netminder.

To Toronto’s and Källgren’s credit, the goal didn’t dampen their resolve. The Swedish goaltender turned away the next four shots he faced and Antti Suomela made sure of the win with an empty-net goal from almost 200 feet away.

A 4-2 victory extended the Marlies’ winning streak to four will and set up Toronto nicely for perhaps the toughest stretch of the schedule this season: a 10-day road trip in which the Marlies face Hershey, Lehigh, Hartford, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (x2), and Grand Rapids.

Post Game Notes

– If anyone needed a goal it was Semyon Der-Arguchintsev. The rookie forward broke a nine-game point-less streak with the game’s first goal and a primary assist on the second.

“There are some special things [SDA] can do with the puck with the deception he has in creating space and opportunities not only for himself and his teammates,” said Moore. “He’s been working really hard on the defensive side of the game and just the competitiveness of his shift throughout shifts and over the 60 minutes continues to get better week by week. He has had a great spirit and energy approaching his development and where he is at in the season. We are starting to see the offensive stuff pop for him.”

Mac Hollowell recorded his second multi-point haul of the season with a pair of secondary helpers. He’s quietly ticking along offensively, collecting 10 points (2-8-10) in 14 games. Eight of his points have been accumulated in the last seven appearances.

– That’s now back-to-back multi-point games for Antti Suomela thanks to a power-play secondary helper and the empty-net insurance marker.

Bobby McMann has scored in consecutive games for the second time this season. He’s up to eight goals this year with six of those in the last 10 games. I would still like to see him use his shot a little more, especially with Ho-Sang on his line drawing away defenders and creating space.

“When [Ho-Sang] builds speed and gets skating through the middle of the rink, it makes it really tough on the defensemen,” said Moore. “They have to back right off and anticipate the speed, opening up a lot of space for himself and his teammates, or they get stuck flatfooted and he is through to the net. The pure speed, skill, and ability to manipulate space for himself gives himself a chance to grab depth in the zone.”

– Speaking of Josh Ho-Sang, the third goal was, without doubt, a moment of brilliance from him. That said, he hasn’t been playing with much consistency of late. The assist was just his third point in his last nine games.

Filip Král finally got the monkey off his back by scoring his first of the year. You could see it meant a lot to him in his celebration after so many near misses. The defenseman now has a goal and nine assists through the last eight games. He is flourishing with the added confidence.

– In seven of 10 completed starts this season, Erik Källgren has posted a .929 save percentage or better. I have no intention of dwelling on the freak goal or the comparisons made online with Vesa Toskala after the game. It’s done; move on to the next game. It doesn’t detract from tonight’s result or how well he’s played this year.

I also enjoyed his reaction to it after the game. Källgren and Woll both skated over to the spot on the rink where the puck took the wicked deflection and smashed the ice with their sticks. The smile on their faces made it clear it’s already forgotten in the mind of the Swedish goaltender.

– Wednesday’s lines:

Suomela – Abramov – Steeves
McMann – Der-Arguchintsev – Ho-Sang
Kopacka – Blandisi – Gogolev
Chyzowski – Douglas – Clune

Král – Dahlström
Rubins – Duszak
Hellickson – Hollowell


Greg Moore Post Game: Marlies 4 vs. Senators 2

Game Highlights: Marlies 4 vs. Senators 2