The task facing Toronto this weekend is immense: Back-to-back games against a Chicago team that has accrued more points than any other team in the AHL and sits second overall in points percentage.

With this 4-2 win, the Wolves have not lost a game in regulation since February 15 and own the stingiest defense in the American League.

First Period

The Marlies could not have gotten off to a better start.  On a nothing play — a dump in that fell fortuitously to Alex Steeves wide on the left-wing — results in a bad-angle shot that produced a huge rebound in the slot, which Semyon Der-Arguchintsev finished off with just 32 seconds on the clock.

Ryan Chyzowski and Der-Arguchintsev drew consecutive penalties, leading to a power-play goal inside eight minutes. A shot from Steeves was deflected wide of the target, but Brett Seney was alert as the puck bounced straight to him off the end boards, beating Alex Lyon with an accurate shot from the side of the goal before the goaltender could reset.

Almost immediately after the restart of play, Curtis Douglas delivered a cross-check that resulted in Stelio Mattheos dropping the gloves with the towering forward. It was a clear victory for Douglas in the tilt, but it was the perfect recipe for Chicago to halve the deficit 21 seconds later.

With Toronto’s penalty kill torn to shreds, CJ Smith tapped in a backdoor feed from Stefan Noesen.

The Marlies created chances to re-establish their two-goal advantage. There was a flurry of activity around the Wolves’ net on a power play, but the Marlies couldn’t find any puck luck in tight. Soon after, a partial breakaway for Joey Anderson ended in the winger firing a shot off the crossbar.

The Wolves tied the game up with four minutes remaining. It wasn’t officially a power-play goal, but it arrived just seconds after Alex Biega exited the box. It was another breakdown by Toronto and another simple backdoor finish as Ryan Suzuki buried David Gusts’s feed.

A chance in the dying seconds for Mikhail Abramov was well stopped by Lyon, who challenged the shooter at the top of his crease.

Second Period

A competitive first period was followed by sheer domination for Chicago in the middle frame. The Wolves held an 18-4 shot advantage through the second period and were left wondering how they weren’t holding a commanding lead through 40 minutes.

They were unable to make hay on two power plays and were further frustrated by a combination of poor finishing and excellent goaltending. Hutchinson turned aside all 18 shots, including two highlight-reel saves.

The first was desperate diving save to his left to deny Smith what looked like an open goal. He then proceeded to rob Mattheos on a breakaway attempt despite getting completely run over in the process.

Third Period

Somewhat understandably, there was a letdown in Chicago’s play in the third period, and Toronto stepped up their efforts while benefitting greatly from limiting the turnovers that had seen them out-chanced and out-possessed to this point in the game.

The turning point arrived on a Chicago power play with eight minutes remaining. Anderson escaped on a shorthanded breakaway, and it appeared as if he had scored on a shot with Lyon sliding back into his goal with the puck between his pads. No goal was awarded, and as the whistle was blown, Seney attempted to stab the puck clearly past the goal line.

Not only was no video review was requested, Toronto now faced a 5-on-3 penalty kill.
It was scripted that Josh Leivo would score the game-winner on his return, and the former Marlie did just that with an accurate shot through a screen as Chicago’s power play struck again.

After Greg Moore opted for the extra attacker with three minutes remaining, Chicago missed a pair of easy opportunities to score into the empty net, leading to a grandstand finish. With Leivo in the box for tripping, the Marlies had 99 seconds to work with, but they could only record one shot on net despite two extra skaters on the ice.

Noesen iced the game by slotting into the empty net with 16 seconds remaining to extend Chicago’s point streak to 12 games.

Post Game Notes

– Narratives in hockey are fascinating to me. Greg Moore highlighted the number of penalties for his team (six) for this defeat against a top power-play unit (ranked 13th in the AHL). Toronto took five penalties in the previous game against Hershey (just 1% worse than Chicago on the PP). The Marlies won 3-0, so no mention of penalties. This season, Toronto is middle of the pack in both times shorthanded” and penalty killing.

Michael Hutchinson was excellent between the pipes and kept Toronto in this game during as one-sided a second period as I can remember this season. His 18 saves in the middle frame tied a season-high for saves in the second period for a Marlies netminder.

– A pair of primary assists for Alex Steeves, who was rewarded for his efforts offensively.
Somehow he wasn’t credited with a single shot on target, and that’s only the second time this season that’s occurred for the rookie.

Filip Král returned to action after missing time through illness. I thought he put in a top-notch performance against high-end opposition.

– We will know more about Joseph Woll’s prognosis (shoulder injury) on Sunday or Monday. In the meantime, Keith Petruzzelli has been recalled from Newfoundland.

– Saturday’s lines:

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

Kivihalme – Biega
Rubins – Duszak
Král – Menell


Greg Moore Post Game: Wolves 4 vs. Marlies 2

Game Highlights: Wolves 4 vs. Marlies 2