In a game lacking in quality scoring chances, the Toronto Marlies found a way to grab a critical two points against a divisional rival on Sunday in Syracuse.
“The whole effort — everything that the team brought today — was really impressive,” said Greg Moore. “I am really proud of the group for these last two games we put together. While last game we didn’t get the result we wanted, they extended it to the way we played today. It was a gutsy effort, and it was really fun to see them dig one out… A boring game is okay as long as we aren’t giving up a lot.”
The opening frame was nothing to write home about. The Marlies took a penalty inside 30 seconds, but they only gave up a single shot on the kill. Michael Hutchinson made three saves to deny Alex Barre-Boulet from decent positions in the early stages, but those weren’t overly challenging stops.
The Marlies created one chance of note through Jeremy McKenna and Bobby McMann, who caused havoc with a relentless forecheck, resulting in creating a scoring opportunity for the former that drew a penalty in the process. Toronto’s power-play wasn’t able to convert as the teams headed into the intermission tied at 0-0.
While Syracuse began the middle frame on a power-play carrying over from the previous frame, Toronto opened the scoring with their 10th shorthanded goal of the season. Joey Anderson escaped on a lone breakaway and fired home his fifth — yes, fifth — shorthanded goal of the season.
The Marlies had three opportunities to double their lead — Mikhail Abramov and Joseph Duszak (x2) probably should have done better with their shots from the high slot.
The second period was lacking quality offensive play, with Syracuse, in particular, guilty of making the unnecessary extra pass and resorting to shots from low-percentage areas of the ice.
The one moment of class resulted in a tying goal for the Crunch. Attacking through the neutral zone with speed, Otti Simppi dished the puck to Remi Elie, who breezed by Kritains Rubins and drove hard to the slot before delivering a perfect backhand finish.
Barring the one goal against, Hutchinson wasn’t tested much, but he was steady in making the 15 saves required of him to ensure the Marlies entered the third period tied at 1-1.
The Crunch had to switch goaltenders early in the middle frame after what appeared to be an innocent-coming together by Ryan Chyzowski and Alnefelt. Sadly, the Syracuse netminder left the game favouring his left leg and was replaced by Max Lagace.
The change didn’t harm Syracuse, who should have scored on their fourth power play of the game. Remi should have doubled his total for the game, but he wasn’t as clinical this time.
All that was forgotten at the five-minute mark after Syracuse took a 2-1 lead. In a battle in the crease between Chad Krys and Daniel Walcott, both players fell to the ice during the tussle before the Crunch forward found his footing quicker and got his stick on the ice to redirect a shot from Fredrik Claesson past Hutchinson.
The Marlies recorded just four shots in the first 12 minutes of the third, with a comeback looking increasingly unlikely. They were helped by Syracuse retreating into a shell trying to protect their narrow lead, though, and found a tying goal somewhat out of the blue.
A pair of shots from Brennan Mennell were turned aside, but Toronto retained possession and applied offensive-zone pressure on the Crunch. A long-range effort from Krys was redirected by Anderson, producing a rebound to the side of the net that Duszak was on hand to finish off.
There was still 7:48 left in regulation for either team to produce a game-winner. Only seven shots were recorded, although the Crunch will feel they should have claimed the two points outright. Charles Hudon was all alone in the slot, but his shot produced the best save of the game from Michael Hutchinson, who snared the shot with his glove hand.
Shots were three apiece during the extra frame, but Toronto created the best scoring opportunities. Mac Hollowell led a 2-on-1 break, but he took far too long to make a decision and his weak shot was easily turned aside. McMann was guilty of missing the target on a partial breakaway before Antti Suomela fired wide during a 2-on-1 with McMann.
While they weren’t able to find a winner in overtime, the Marlies’ were clinical in the shootout. Both Mikhail Abramov and Anderson found the back of the net, while Hutchinson made two saves to claim the extra point.
Post Game Notes
– Joey Anderson has tied the Toronto Marlies’ season record of five shorthanded goals held by Alex Foster (2007-08). Toronto scored 16 shorthanded goals in the 2007-08 campaign and has 10 already this season. It was quite the performance for Anderson, who also collected the primary assist on the second goal and scored in the shootout.
– That’s now 40 points (7-33-40) in as many games for Joseph Duszak after scoring the crucial tying goal. He played right wing on Toronto’s top line and led all Marlies skaters with four shots.
– This 35-save performance from Michael Hutchinson was his first game in almost three weeks. A solid outing, all things considered.
“He was in a tough spot for a goalie to be out that many games,” said Moore. “He came in and played phenomenally. He made some huge saves for us and gave us a chance to get a win here in a tough building.”
– Curtis Douglas missed this game as a precaution after taking a knock in Friday’s outing in Utica.
– With the goaltending controversy in Toronto right now, it feels relevant to mention Erik Källgren. For my money, he’s been the Marlies’ best player this season, and in the big club’s current situation, he’s deserving of an NHL start.
He has an excellent demeanour — as unflappable of a goaltender as I’ve seen on the Marlies’ — and I doubt he will be daunted by the challenge. His style isn’t flamboyant with spectacular highlight-reel stops, but Källgren is positionally sound, challenges the shooter well, and is rarely caught deep in his net.
Not for one second am I pretending the Swedish netminder is the answer to Toronto’s prayers in net, but could he come in and do a job in the short term? I believe the answer is yes. Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea about his potential this week.
– Saturday’s lines:
Anderson – Blandisi – Duszak
McMann – Abramov – McKenna
Clune – Suomela – Kopacka
Chyzowski – Johnstone
Kivihalme – Biega
Rubins – Hollowell
Král – Menell