A lot had been coming together for the Toronto Marlies during their six-game winning streak: generating consistent offense, special teams superiority, limiting defensive mistakes, and outstanding goaltending.
In their 5-2 loss in Hartford on Wednesday night, the offense failed to materialize, there was little opportunity for special teams to make a difference, and the Marlies committed some costly turnovers throughout the game.
“It didn’t feel like the team wasn’t into it or the compete or process wasn’t there, but it was a weird game,” said Greg Moore. “It felt like we were in it, but the puck play and the turnovers hurt us.”
Hartford struck first at the seven-minute mark. Mac Hollowell’s decision to skate back into the defensive zone with the puck didn’t work out for him after he was stripped of it by Tim Gettinger, creating a 3-on-1 break for Hartford. Jonny Brodzinski gave Erik Källgren no chance from the slot.
The Marlies goaltender kept his team in the game early with an excellent stop on Ty Ronning on a set-play during a man advantage for Hartford.
Toronto generated just one high-danger scoring chance on a dominant offensive-zone shift at the 14-minute mark. Efforts from Carl Dahlström and Filip Král tested Keith Kinkaid, but the best chance was a rebound opportunity for Bobby McMann at the hash marks; the rookie attempted to roof his backhander, but Kinkaid got enough of it with his glove to send it wide.
In the middle frame, the Marlies generated a few more high-danger scoring chances and were able to convert on two of them, but they continued to shoot themselves in the foot.
The tying goal was very much against the run of play as Hartford exerted early pressure on Toronto. A crushing hit by Curtis Douglas behind the Toronto net recovered possession before he cleared the puck off the glass and out into the neutral zone, where a foot race ensued.
Ryan Chyzowski kept pace with Nils Lundkvist before showing greater strength and hunger in the puck battle. He then rounded net and scored on a wraparound attempt, with the puck appearing to take a weird hop as it bounced up and over Kinkaid.
The Marlies gave Hartford the lead back just 40 seconds later when Filip Král was stripped of the puck at the goal line and Patrick Khodorenko picked out the unmarked Austin Rueschhoff on the doorstep.
In a middle frame short on quality hockey, it was fitting that a second tying goal for Toronto was a pure fluke. After Král dumped the puck in behind the Wolf Pack net from the neutral zone, Kindkiad left his net to gain possession before the puck freakishly bounced off of the end boards and out into the high slot to McMann, who finished into an empty cage.
With two points and their six-game winning streak on the line, the Marlies were toothless offensively, inept defensively, and could not have played a worse 20 minutes of hockey.
Before the game went south, Joseph Blandisi was teed up in the slot at the 70-second mark, but he tried to outmaneuver Kinkaid instead of shooting and the chance went begging.
Hartford’s game-winner arrived within five minutes. Inside the Wolf Pack zone, Jack Kopacka skated out to the blue line and nonchalantly turned the puck over at the offensive blue line, allowing Justin Richards to send the speeding Rueschhoff away down the left wing. It wasn’t the greatest game for Král, who got his gap control all wrong, with Rueschhoff easily cutting inside the rookie defenseman for his second of the game.
Toronto’s only power play of the game followed shortly after, and with it went their last chance to take anything from the game. A point shot from Král resulted in a rebound chance in the blue paint that Douglas failed to bury.
The game was all but over after Hartford scored a fourth with a little under 10 minutes remaining. With the puck cleared to Chad Krys at the red line, the defenseman made a hash of it, allowing Alex Whelan to skate past him, collect possession, and make no mistake with a clinical backhand finish, leaving a frustrated Källgren on his haunches and Krys smashing his stick into the boards — a perfect encapsulation of the game for the Marlies.
With an extra attacker on the ice in the last three minutes, Toronto created two chances with some extra bodies around the crease, but Kinkaid wasn’t flustered. An empty-net goal from Anthony Greco put the cherry on the top for a Hartford team that really needed the two points.
Post Game Notes
– Bobby McMann has now scored in three straight games. He’s up to nine goals this season in 21 games.
– Another player in good scoring form is forward Ryan Chyzowski. The rookie has goals in back-to-back games and consistently brings energy with his performances. If Curtis Douglas can be considered for a top-six role, I don’t see why Chyzowski shouldn’t receive an opportunity higher up the line-up for a game or two as a complement to more skilled teammates.
“He has added a lot to our team in the last few games with his energy, his compete, his passion for playing the game,” said Moore after the game.
– Josh Ho-Sang has been diagnosed with a concussion and is going through the protocol. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev has a lower-body injury and is considered doubtful for the team’s weekend games.
– Wednesday’s lines:
Suomela – Seney – Anderson
McMann – Abramov – Steeves
Kopacka – Blandisi – Chyzowski
Clune – Douglas – Gogolev
Král – Dahlström
Krys – Duszak
Hellickson – Hollowell