After defeating Rochester 4-0 the day before, Greg Moore’s decision to change up his forward lines despite dressing the same 11 players seemed like a case of unnecessary tinkering.
The Marlies played like a disjointed team only 24 hours after shutting down one of the best offensive teams in the American Hockey League. Toronto’s performance aside, the main takeaways from this game were the dominance of Rochester’s power play and the substandard level of officiating that directly resulted in two line brawls.
A bright start saw the Marlies come close to opening the scoring inside the first five minutes. Bobby McMann rang the iron following a turnover before Semyon Der-Arguchintsev shook a defender, escaped down the left wing, and forced a good save out of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Against an opponent playing its third game in as many days, the last thing the Marlies needed to do was invite them into the game, but they lost their structure for an odd-man rush against and a sweet finish from Arttu Ruotsalainen put Toronto down 1-0.
JJ Peterka could have singlehandedly put the Marlies in a huge hole in the first period; the rookie ripped a shot off the post and beat Filip Král for another scoring chance that Joseph Woll stood tall on.
The Marlies came close to a tying before the intermission buzzer sounded through Antti Suomelam, who was robbed on a breakaway following stellar work by Alex Steeves to spring his teammate.
During late four-on-four action, Joseph Blandisi fired wide on a rebound from Joseph Duszak’s effort. On the same play, Kopacka fired a shot directly off of Luukkonen’s mask.
The officials opted to call nothing but an off-setting pair of roughing minor penalties in the opening frame. Everything else was let go, and that would have been fine had they not changed their standard for the remainder of the game, which infuriated both teams.
Toronto’s power-play went to work 41 seconds into the middle frame, but it registered just one shot on goal. The officials then began their magical mystery tour of bizarre calls by assessing Curtis Douglas a laughable interference penalty.
Toronto killed off the Douglas penalty, but with Kopacka in the box, Brett Murray doubled the Amerks lead at the eight-minute mark off of a feed from Peterka to Murray, who was left alone in front.
The Marlies halved the deficit through Kopacka after McMann led a 3-on-1 rush and let rip with a heavy shot. The rebound evaded his two linemates crashing the net but fell to Kopacka on the left half-wall, where his quick release caught Luukkonen by surprise.
Any momentum was snuffed out just 19 seconds later when Toronto gifted the Americans the third goal with terrible coverage around their net, leading to Arttu Ruotsalainen scoring his second of the game into an empty net.
Tabbed for unsportsmanlike conduct in the middle frame, Rich Clune was in no mood to make friends in this game, and there was a feeling that there was trouble imminent when he exited the box. Consecutive booming hits from Clune and Kopacka led to a line brawl as hell broke loose between the two teams.
Toronto lost their captain for the night after he was assessed five for fighting, boarding, and a game misconduct. A livid Clune launched into a verbal tirade at the Amerks bench as he departed the ice and down the tunnel.
Nick Pastujov was left with an empty net to finish into on a rebound from Mitch Eliot’s shot as the Amerks made use of an extended power play to build a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes.
Joseph Woll kept Toronto’s faint hopes of a comeback alive with three excellent saves inside the first five minutes, turning aside Peterka (x2) and Matej Pekar.
The Marlies rewarded their netminder with a goal at the other end at the six-minute mark, when Brenna Menell bulldozed his away through the middle of the ice and the puck fell to Suomela, who made no mistake with his finish.
Any designs on a comeback were undone by Toronto’s continued propensity to shoot themselves in the foot throughout the contest. After Seney took a penalty immediately following the restart of play, Rochester answered with a power-play tally 14 seconds after Toronto’s second goal.
A second line brawl erupted with 10 minutes remaining resulting from a dump in and chase in which Eliot attempted to injure Mac Hollowell with a reckless play.
The game was over as a contest, although the Marlies grabbed a consolation goal from Joey Anderson, who tipped home a shot from Duszak.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto has won just one of their last four games on home ice. That’s a trend they will need to reverse with nine games at Coca-Cola Coliseum scheduled in the month of March.
The 5-3 scoreline flatted the Marlies in a performance that was day and night from the game before. Toronto was outbattled by a depleted roster that should have been running on fumes after three games in many days.
– The Marlies gave up three power-play goals and were shorthanded on eight occasions. “When you get into all of the penalties, the flow of the game is taken away from both benches,” said Greg Moore. “It is sometimes tough for the players to find their way through it. Emotions got high on both benches… Our guys had some pushback, and that was good to see.”
– Joseph Duszak reached the 30-assist mark in his 33rd game of the season thanks to a pair of helpers in this game.
– That’s now goals in back-to-back games for Joey Anderson, who has found the net six times in his last eight games and is one shy of the 20 mark through 34 appearances.
– Sunday’s lines:
Seney – Suomela – Anderson
McMann – Der-Arguchintsev – Steeves
Blandisi – Abramov – Kopacka
Rubins – Hollowell
Král – Menell
Krys – Duszak