Through a combination of excellent goaltending and timely offense, the Toronto Marlies ended their six-game, 10-day road trip on a high note in Grand Rapids on Monday.

It was generally a low-event game for the Marlies, who were outchanced for 40 minutes after a dream start.

First Period

A strong opening shift from the top line led to a goal just 23 seconds into the game when Joey Anderson created a turnover in the neutral zone and the Marlies swarmed the Griffins’ net. A shot from Brett Seney was blocked, but the rebound fell into the wheelhouse of Antti Suomela to finish off his sixth goal of the season.

That proved to be the one and only scoring chance of note for Toronto in the first frame. Grand Rapids created four high-danger scoring chances of their own, but Erik Källgren was in excellent form, turning aside efforts from Turner Elson, Taro Hirose, and Kyle Criscuolo.

Grand Rapids’ tying goal was a microcosm of the Marlies‘ issues in the opening frame. A defensive-zone turnover by Mac Hollowell led to the Griffins controlling play and creating some good looks before a point shot from Jared McIsaac whistled past a screened Källgren.

After killing a penalty following a poor shift from the fourth line, the Marlies scrambled to the first intermission tied at 1-1.

Second Period

The middle frame was much better from the Marlies, although they did ride their luck in the opening three minutes, with Källgren pulling off two wonderful saves on Donovan Sebrango and Chase Pearson to prevent a Griffins go-ahead goal.

It was then Toronto’s turn to create all the high-danger scoring chances, but they were frustrated by a familiar foe and old friend — Calvin Pickard turned aside efforts from Jack Kopacka, Brett Seney, Bobby McMann, and Joseph Blandisi in tight. Hollowell also hit a post during Toronto’s first power play of the game.

If hard work results in good luck, Blandisi’s extra effort was proof of it behind the Griffins goal line with 50 seconds left in the period. His hustle resulted in the puck squirting out into the slot to Semyon Der-Arguchintsev via the skate of a Grand Rapids defenseman before SDA went bar-down for his sixth of the season.

The period ended with some shenanigans in front of the Marlies’ net. The officials ended up dishing out five penalties for what appeared to be a whole lot of nothing in terms of actual infractions. The most laughable call came on Curtis Douglas for roughing despite the fact Luke Witkowski ran into the Marlies’ big man.

It was a curious ending to what was otherwise an excellent 17 minutes of hockey from Toronto.

Third Period

The Marlies killed the penalty that carried over into the third period and really should have followed up by adding an insurance marker after Blandisi set up Kopacka during a 2-on-1 break.

After dodging a bullet, the Griffins began to turn it on. A tremendous left-pad kick stop by Källgren on Tyler Spezia should have been a wake-up call for the Marlies, but the Griffins wound up tying the game less than a minute later. A slap pass into the slot from Dan Renouf received a slight redirect from Dennis Yan alone in front to finally beat Källgren.

An odd-man rush presented Toronto with the chance to re-establish their lead, but Ryan Chyzowski was indecisive with Brennan Menell available to his right and the chance petered out.

That looked to be a big missed opportunity after Grand Rapids struck on the power play with seven minutes remaining. Following several near misses, Elson broke through, and the Marlies were staring down the barrel of a fourth-straight defeat.

In the five minutes that followed the Griffins’ 3-2 goal, Toronto recorded just one shot on target, with a comeback appearing unlikely.  As Källgren watched from the bench, the Marlies went for broke with the extra skater and it paid dividends.

Who else but Toronto’s talisman this season, Brett Seney? The winger created a little space for himself in the left circle before stepping around Witkowski and attempting a feed to Suomela at the backdoor. The intended pass hit the skate of the Griffins defenseman in front and snuck past Pickard to tie the game at 3-3 with 1:55 remaining.


The regulation-time hero then set up the overtime winner with only 38 seconds played. Seney carried possession through the neutral zone, across the blue line with pace, and threatened to drive the net, drawing the attention of two Griffins defenders.

Seney spun back and teed up Joey Duszak at the top of the right circle, where the defenseman launched a one-time shot from one knee that beat Pickard clean.

It was as dramatic as any Marlies victory this season — and one that should have them feeling a little bit better about their game after a rough weekend in Wilkes/Barre Scranton.

Post Game Notes

– Sometimes it is as simple as your best players playing like your best players. Brett Seney led the way with a goal, two assists, and a team-high five shots. It was also another multi-point haul for Antti Suomela (1-1-2), his third in eight games. With Alex Steeves out of the lineup through illness, he was a perfect fit alongside Seney and Joey Anderson.

– Stopping 24 of 27 shots would not normally be a noteworthy goaltending stat line. However, Erik Källgren had no chance on any of the three goals against and kept the Marlies in the game when their backs were against the wall.

– You cannot keep Joey Duszak off the scoreboard for long this season. A primary assist on the tying goal and the overtime winner takes him to the 25 point mark (2-23-25) in 24 games.

“[Duszak] is one of the top defensemen in the league for points and brings a lot of offensive looks that a lot of other people can’t create,” said Moore. “He has a special power in these moments.”

Joseph Blandisi has proven himself worthy of a contract for my money.  Not only is he a noticeable offensive threat, but his work rate has been consistently excellent. He can be plugged almost anywhere into the lineup and can play center when needed.

“Relentless,” said Moore of Blandisi. “He works so hard and so smart. For a smaller player at this level, he plays like he is 6’5. He has been very consistent in what he brings this year.”

– Monday’s lines:

Suomela – Seney – Anderson
Blandisi – Abramov – Kopacka
McMann – Der-Arguchintsev – Chyzowski
Clune – Douglas – Gogolev

Dahlström – Duszak
Král – Menell
Hellickson – Hollowell


Greg Moore Post Game: Marlies 4 vs. Griffins 3 (OT)