The Toronto Marlies responded to an embarrassing defeat the day before in a positive fashion: a resounding victory against a hard-working and resilient Penguins team.
The opening frame very much resembled the game prior. For long stretches, the Penguins pinned Toronto in their defensive zone with a relentless cycle, winning the majority of boards battles but predominantly shooting from the perimeter.
The Marlies were at their most dangerous offensively when they broke out with speed.
At the six-minute mark, Bobby McMann escaped on a breakaway but the winger uncharacteristically missed the target with his effort.
It appeared as if the teams were going to be deadlocked at 0-0 heading into the intermission until a piece of individual brilliance from the Marlies.
Nick Robertson began the play by dishing the puck off to Josh Ho-Sang in Toronto’s zone, where the winger quickly got up a head of steam and caught the Penguins napping, blitzing through all three zones before beating Louis Domingue with a low shot.
If Robertson only played a fleeting role in the first goal, he was instrumental in the second. The winger carried possession across the blue line heading toward the right boards before sharply cutting inside two opponents. and picking out a perfect feed into the slot for Jack Kopacka to finish under the pads of Domingue.
Up 2-0 just six minutes into the middle frame, the Marlies took full control of proceedings and ended the period with 16 shots on target.
Toronto had to be patient until their domination turned into more goals. A second power play did the trick, with Robertson proving unstoppable again.
This time, he picked up possession on a broken play in the Penguins zone, where a beautiful toe-drag move allowed him to drive into the slot and comprehensively beat Domingue’s glove hand.
Promoted to the top line for this game, Bobby McMann showed he was worthy as he scored Toronto’s third goal. Brett Seney found the rookie in the right circle and there was only one thing on McMann’s mind. After drifting in behind the Penguins’ defense, the winger drove hard to the net and beat Domngiue upstairs.
Michael Chaput almost got the Penguins on the board, but his effort cannoned off the crossbar. A glimmer of hope for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton arrived with 0.3 seconds remaining in the period when Drew O’Connor applied a touch to Juuso Riikola’s point shot and the puck trickled over the line just in time for Pittsburgh’s affiliate.
Toronto might have been thinking about game management holding a 4-1 lead with 20 minutes remaining, but it was never a concern as a power-play goal three minutes into the final frame ended the game as a contest.
Robertson sent a cross-ice backhand pass to Ho-Sang, who did the rest to record his 14th goal this season.
McMann doubled up with his second of the game on a power play, where he perfectly picked his spot in the far top corner of Domingue’s net.
Score effects were in play as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton registered 15 shots in the third period. Petruzzelli turned them all aside with two saves of note. O’Connor was denied a second in tight on a power play for the Penguins before the rookie saved his best until last with a fabulous glove on Valtteri Puustinen with a little over two minutes remaining.
Petruzzelli kept his perfect record intact with his third win in a Marlies uniform as Toronto romped home to a 6-1 victory.
Post Game Notes
– March is a busy month for Toronto. They have to be picking up points and wins to ensure qualification for the playoffs. Just 0.011 in points percentage separates second from sixth in the North Division, with Toronto currently holding third place.
– A career-high four-point game for Nick Robertson included a goal and three primary assists for the winger in what was his best performance overall in the AHL. Consistency is the key for him, but that will come if he’s allowed to stay the course in the American League.
– Absent for a few games for undisclosed reasons, Josh Ho-Sang returned with a bang, netting twice and finishing with three points. Rich Clune said it best about Ho-Sang (and Nick Robertson) with this post-game quote: “I think that when Josh Ho-Sang and Nick Robertson are at the top of their game, they are virtually impossible to stop. Now the challenge is for them to play properly, starting in their own end, so that their skill can come out.”
– A second multi-goal haul in three games for Bobby McMann ties him for the lead in shots (5) with Ho-Sang. There have been peaks and troughs for the winger this season, but you can visually see the improvement in his game, especially with his decision-making.
– Three games into his AHL career, Keith Petruzzelli is making waves without being overly spectacular. His calm persona definitely rubs off on his teammates, and I thought his rebound control in this outing was excellent. The rookie has given up just two even-strength goals in three outings and should be at least splitting starts with Hutchinson all the time Joseph Woll remains out.
– Toronto parted ways with Brennan Menell, who was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for future considerations. Conversely, the Marlies have acquired defenseman Philippe Myers on loan from the Nashville Predators. This has the potential to be an excellent pick-up for Toronto depending on the attitude of the player. Myers has NHL experience (144 games) and has suited up in over a 100 regular-season games.
– Semyon Der-Arguchintsev missed this outing having been placed in concussion protocol after Tuesday’s game.
– Wednesday’s lines:
McMann – Seney – Anderson
Robertson – Suomela – Ho-Sang
Ovchinnikov – Abramov – Steeves
Clune – Douglas – Kopacka
Kivihalme – Hollowell
Dahlström – Duszak
Krys – Rubins
Game Highlights: Marlies 6 vs. Penguins 1