The Abbotsford Canucks played with a pace and intensity that the Toronto Marlies simply could not match through 40 minutes.
The fact that rookie Alex Steeves felt he had to drop the gloves following a big (legal) hit on Brett Seney says a lot about this lacklustre effort from the Marlies.
The game took a little while to heat up, with the Canucks leading the shot count 3-1 through the opening five minutes.
The opening goal came out of the blue via Toronto’s fourth line. Listed as the seventh defenseman, Joseph Duszak was used primarily as a forward, where he contributed on a strong forecheck behind the Cancuks net that assisted Curtis Douglas to tee up Mac Hollowell to score from the top of the circles.
Toronto mustered just five shots through the opening 20 minutes and found themselves trailing 2-1 at the intermission buzzer. Chase Wouters should have tied the game in alone with 5:22 remaining, but Erik Källgren pulled off a great save.
The netminder’s efforts proved to be in vain as Abbotsford netted twice inside the final five minutes. Sheldon Rempal struck his 21st of the season with a power-play goal moments after Nic Petan struck the crossbar.
Danila Klimovich was then the recipient of a Toronto turnover in the defensive zone, where his shot from the right circle took a deflection on its way past Källgren.
The middle frame featured three goals inside 12 minutes.
Abbotsford struck first at the six-minute mark. There should have been little danger for the Marlies, who had numbers back in their own zone, but no one in blue picked up pinching defenseman Brandon Hickey, who finished with aplomb on a feed from Rempal.
The Canucks offered Toronto some hope with a gift from John Stevens, who whiffed on a dangerous-looking reverse pass, presenting Duszak with possession. The defenseman-turned-forward made no mistake on Toronto’s ninth shot through 29 minutes of play.
The gift was repaid in kind during four-on-four action. A miscommunication between Chad Krys and Källgren led to the goaltender presenting the puck to Stevens, who teed up Rempal for his second of the game.
Following a huge but legal hit on Brett Seney, Alex Steeves dropped the gloves with Noah Juulsen, and the rookie fared okay in the tilt. Steeves was assessed 10, five, and two for his troubles, but it failed to generate much of a response out of his teammates.
While the Marlies did kill the minor instigating penalty, a tripping infraction by Pavel Gogolev allowed Abbotsford to strike a second power-play goal. Dries will not score an easier goal than the tap-in at the far post from Petan’s pass as the Canucks tore the Marlies penalty kill apart with ease to take a 5-2 lead.
A fight in the final minute of the period between Richard Clune and Vincent Arseneau followed by an unsportsmanlike penalty by Douglas left Toronto with just eight remaining forwards to begin the final frame.
The Marlies scored their first four-on-four goal of the season 49 seconds into the third period when Bobby McMann drove down the wall, cut hard to the net from his off-wing, and provided a deft finish in tight under pressure, bringing Toronto within two.
Any hopes of an unlikely comeback were dashed less than three minutes later. With Seney in the box for tripping, Petan scored a dagger goal from the right circle.
That was the end of the night for Källgren, who was pulled by Greg Moore in favour of Joseph Woll. The goaltender might have wanted the first goal back and the one miscommunication was partly his fault, but it was a harsh pull on the merits.
Douglas tallied a late consolation game mostly due to the fact that the Canucks cruised their way through the remaining 15 minutes of the game. A 6-4 final scoreline hugely flattered a Marlies team that was not fully engaged throughout this contest.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto was outshot 36-29, although those numbers are skewed by the Marlies’ 16 shots in the third period when the game was over as a contest.
– Abbotsford’s three power-play goals on seven attempts were the difference between the teams on the scoresheet.
“It is the wear and tear we’re putting on our penalty kill with how many penalties we’re taking,” said Greg Moore. “The penalty kill has been strong all year, but if we keep taking minor infractions and putting ourselves in a position where the same guys have to burn energy in that area of the game, we put ourselves in a tough spot.”
– Joseph Duszak adapted well to his role as a forward in this game. He extended his point streak to nine games with a goal, his fifth of the season, and an assist.
“Joe is just a really smart hockey player,” said Moore. “Whether it is defense or forward, with his skill set and what he brings to the D core, it translates well to forward. He did a great job of filling in a tough role when he doesn’t normally play the position.”
– The two teams meet again on Wednesday with an 11 a.m. EST puck drop at Coca-Cola Coliseum.
– Wednesday’s lines:
Steeves – Seney – Anderson
McMann – Der-Arguchintsev – Kopacka
Gogolev – Abramov – Ho-Sang
Král – Hollowell
Hellickson – Rubins
Krys – Menell