“They just outcompeted us today,” said Marlies head coach Greg Moore after a 5-1 loss in Pennsylvania on Friday night.
Heading into this game, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton owned the second-worst record in the AHL, the fewest goals for, and the worst power play in the league. It should have been a good opportunity for Toronto to get back on track following Wednesday’s loss in Hartford.
30 seconds is how long it took Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to open the scoring, getting out to an early lead that they never relinquished for the remainder of the game.
With all five Toronto skaters caught puck watching as the Penguins held possession in the right corner, Alexander Nylander ghosted into the slot unmarked and finished off a feed from Sam Poulin.
The Penguins should have doubled their lead at the eight-minute mark when a broken play resulted in a 2-on-1 break, but Anthony Angello was robbed by an excellent glove save from Erik Källgren.
Bobby McMann, one of the Marlies‘ few bright spots in this game, engineered a fantastic scoring chance 60 seconds later. He won a puck battle, showed good vision to pick out Jack Kopacka, and delivered the perfect pass, but Kopacka sent his shot high and wide of the target.
There were only two other chances of note for the Marlies through the opening frame. The first was a wraparound attempt by Curtis Douglas in which he had more time than he realized to get the shot off.
The Marlies also had a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play that should have gotten them back level against one of the worst penalty kills in the league. They made a complete mess of the power play, generating just one high-danger scoring chance and two shots on goal.
After Alex Steeves was robbed by a fantastic flying glove save by Alex D’Orio, Toronto entered the first intermission down 1-0.
The only surprise in the middle frame was that it took a little while for the Penguins to pad their lead. A combination of excellent goaltending from Källgren and weak finishing from WBS meant that the Penguins had to wait until the final five minutes to put the game firmly in hand.
The Pens’ struggling power play broke through thanks to Valtteri Puustinen’s low shot from the left circle. Less than a minute later, Toronto was simply outworked in the build-up to Filip Hallander burying a loose puck, with the Marlies guilty of puck watching again defensively.
It could easily have been four or five by this point for WBS before the Marlies put a dent in the lead with a late power-play tally. Antti Suomela netted his fifth goal of the season with 11 seconds left to give Toronto a glimmer of hope entering the second intermission.
The middle frame was full of nasty shenanigans, including a tilt between Curtis Douglas and Jamie Devane, setting the stage for more theatrics in the final 20.
A Marlies power play inside five minutes could have been the catalyst for a comeback. Instead, Toronto registered just one shot on goal, and if not for Källgren, would have conceded a shorthanded goal.
The Marlies only put three shots on goal in the remainder of the period — a dismal indication of the competitiveness on display from Moore’s team in this game.
Kasper Bjorkqvist struck with 6:40 played to put the game firmly out of reach before Nylander scored his 12th of the season with a power-play tally to make it 5-1 with 11 minutes left.
With the game decided, tempers were now at boiling point. Brett Seney was fortunate to only receive a minor penalty for a boarding infraction before all hell broke loose in the final two minutes. Joseph Blandisi and Chad Krys both received misconduct penalties, with the latter racking up cross-checking and roughing infractions in the process.
With the teams facing off again Saturday evening, it’ll be a test to see who can keep their tempers in check.
Post Game Notes
I would normally pull together a few post-game notes, but this performance has me at a loss as to what can be gleaned from it.
There was no response after the bad showing on Wednesday in Hartford. Lacklustre performances in this fashion are a calling card of Greg Moore’s tenure as head coach. It never feels like one is far away.
To lose against talented teams like the Rochester Americans or Utica Comets is one thing. To be outworked by an 11-win team in the WBS Penguins is quite another.
– Friday’s lines:
Suomela – Seney – Steeves
Gogolev – Abramov – Der-Arguchintsev
McMann – Blandisi – Kopacka
Clune – Douglas – Chyzowski
Král – Duszak
Krys – Rubins
Hellickson – Hollowell