Two days after an impressive win over the best team in the AHL, Greg Moore opted to shuffle the deck with his lineup decisions on Friday night in Belleville.
It was a decision that backfired as the Marlies reverted to old habits that included a slow start, twice digging themselves into a two-goal deficit, and far too many penalties. In summary, the 4-3 loss was a Mr. Hyde performance after handing a beat-down to Utica on Wednesday.
Moore’s decision to start Michael Hutchinson in the first game of a back-to-back backfired early, immediately placing Toronto on the backfoot. A soft backhand shot along the ice from Matthew Wedman beat Hutchinson five-hole and put Belleville ahead with a little over two minutes on the clock.
A bad-angle attempt from Joey Anderson was all the Marlies created before they fell further behind at the 10-minute mark.
There appeared little danger in the air as Belleville crossed the blue line with a numerical disadvantage, but Chad Krys was unaware of the attacker slipping in behind him on the weak side. Logan Shaw picked out Mark Kastelic at the far post, where the latter beat Hutchinson, who attempted an unnecessarily extravagant pad-stack save.
The Marlies kept themselves in the game by killing two penalties and could have halved the deficit through two separate individual efforts. The first was a partial breakaway from Jack Kopacka; the second was a stickhandling masterclass from Filip Král to engineer his own chance in tight that he couldn’t finish off.
A cross-check from Kastelic three minutes into the middle frame, sending the Marlies on their first power play of the game, was the spark Toronto needed. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev got his team on the board with a pin-point shot from just inside the right circle.
The goal went straight to the Marlies‘ legs as they swarmed the Senators net on subsequent shifts. The two chances of note both fell to Curtis Douglas seconds apart, but Mads Sogaard wasn’t made to work particularly hard to stop either attempt.
The Marlies’ momentum was halted by a goaltender interference penalty assessed to Král, with Belleville goaltender appearing to really sell the contact on what was an accidental coming together.
Toronto’s top line wasn’t up to anything, with Nick Ritchie looking like a disinterested passenger who wanted to disembark at the next stop. Ritchie later left the game briefly in the middle frame before not returning for the final period.
The Marlies generated very little offense in the period with only Antti Suomela, Nick Robertson, and Kopacka testing Sogaard in search of a tying goal.
Toronto’s last chance of note in the period fell to Joey Anderson courtesy of a turnover; he should have done better with his backhand attempt.
Belleville then restored their two-goal lead inside the final four minutes. Egor Sokolov waltzed around the Marlies’ defense before scoring with a backhand in tight past Hutchinson.
The game could have been over as a contest just a minute into the final frame when Roby Jarventie rang the crossbar with just Hutchinson to beat during a 4-on-3 power play for the Senators.
That looked like a costly miss after the skater from each team exited the box. Alert to his surroundings, Joseph Duszak took control of a pass from Suomlea at the blue line before driving the net. His first shot was stopped, but the Marlies defenseman stuck with it and won a battle against Lassi Thomson before somehow sneaking the puck past Sogaard from a bad angle.
61 seconds later, it was a tie game. Off of an offensive zone draw won by Suomela, Anderson scooped up the loose puck and wired a shot just inside the far post.
From there, a combination of special teams and a few huge calls from the officials determined the outcome.
Less than a minute after Toronto failed to make use of their second power play of the game, Krys sent the puck directly out of play from the defensive zone. Sokolov scored on the resulting man advantage for the Senators after a video review confirmed it was a good goal despite a great goal-line clearance attempt from Suomela.
The Marlies appeared to tie the game at four apiece with a little under six minutes remaining when a long-range effort from Duszak found the net but was called off for a high stick. It looked like an odd decision at the time from the officials, who cannot use video review for such an incident, and the replays were inconclusive.
It was a big call to go against the Marlies, who mustered just two shots for the remainder of the game despite another power play and pulling Hutchinson for an extra attacker.
Post Game Notes
– Nick Ritchie’s injury came as a result of an awkward fall following a hit. Up until leaving the game, he was a non-factor on the first line that should have been split up after the opening 20 minutes.
– When Joseph Woll returns to full fitness, it should be the last we see of Michael Hutchinson for quite some time. The normally-reliable veteran (at this level) is becoming a liability and is clearly the second-string behind Erik Källgren. Additionally, Toronto prospect Keith Petruzzelli is enjoying a great season (he was just named ECHL goaltender of the week) with Newfoundland and deserves an opportunity up a level.
– Antti Suomela recorded primary assists on the second and third goals. The Finnish forward has seven points (3-4-7) in his last six games and made a difference after he was moved up to the first line in Ritchie’s absence.
– Joey Anderson scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season in an otherwise uninspiring performance from him.
– Friday’s lines:
Ritchie – Seney – Anderson
Blandisi – Der-Arguchintsev – Robertson
McMann – Suomela – Steeves
Clune – Douglas – Kopacka
Dahlström – Duszak
Král – Biega
Krys – Menell