Whether it was the exertions in Abbotsford (where the Marlies won twice despite goaltending personnel issues) or something else that took the wind out of their sails, the Toronto Marlies simply failed to show up for this game.
The Manitoba Moose dominated every facet of the contest and controlled 5v5 play to an extent that goaltender Evan Cormier faced just four scoring chances that tested him to any degree.
“It’s not good enough,” said Marlies forward Bobby McMann. “At this level, teams are going to take advantage of you if you don’t come ready to play.”
Toronto’s best chance to grab a foothold in the game arrived 60 seconds in when Nick Robertson created a breakaway for himself, but Evan Cormier got a piece of his glove to the winger’s backhand effort.
Barring two chances for Mikhail Abramov at the six-minute mark, the first period was all Manitoba.
The Moose opened the scoring with 2:13 on the clock when a point shot from Leon Gawanke was deflected twice, with Evan Polei credited for the goal following an initial redirect by Cole Maier.
The Moose could and probably should have headed into the first intermission leading by three or four. Instead, it was just the one goal thanks to excellent penalty killing and goaltending from the Marlies.
Toronto found themselves down by two skaters after Philippe Myers was assessed a double minor penalty for high sticking just over a minute after Joseph Duszak was called for elbowing. Billy Christopoulos produced two incredible saves despite lying flat on his back during a mad scramble in his crease.
The Toledo Walleye netminder performed more heroics later in the penalty kill and was ably assisted by Joseph Blandisi, who twice cleared the zone under pressure.
Toronto was able to stay out of the box in the middle frame, but it made little difference. The game was killed as a contest with a little over eight minutes played when two goals in 95 seconds gave Manitoba a 3-0 lead. Toronto looked lost defensively and bereft of ideas offensively.
A turnover led to the second goal of the game by David Gustafsson before Jonathan Kovacevic scored from long-range with a perfectly-placed shot off the far post to make it 3-0.
Another turnover led directly to the fourth goal in transition as Polei had time to pick out the top corner with missed assignments all over the place from the Marlies.
The fourth goal of the period and fifth of the game was easily the most embarrassing from the Marlies‘ point of view. Mikey Eyssimont dished the puck off to David Gustafsson on the right side before skating past three Toronto skaters to receive the return pass at the backdoor. It was a tap-in for Eyssimont for his 15th of the year, and I doubt he’s scored an easier goal this season.
Manitoba played the final frame like Usain Bolt used to win his 100m races. Having done all the damage in the early going, they took their foot off the gas and coasted to victory.
Had they not, they probably could have run the score up further. The Moose certainly made life easy for Andrew D’Agositini, who replaced Christopoulos for the third period.
The Marlies generated only one chance of note through Abramov. They finished the period with five shots on net and just 20 in total over the full 60 minutes.
Post Game Notes
– This marks the fourth occasion this season that Toronto has been shut out. Two of those have been inflicted by Manitoba. Another unflattering statistic is that this marks the 19th occasion that Toronto has allowed five-plus goals in a game, which is almost a third of their total games played.
“From the start, we didn’t have our work ethic, our structure, or execution of our game plan,” said head coach Greg Moore. “We just came off of a couple of wins. Sometimes you can’t tell if the team is a little confident in how we have been playing lately and maybe isn’t prepared or ready. That is our job to make sure we highlight how focused and prepared we have to be against an opponent as good as Manitoba.”
– With Keith Petruzzelli remaining out through illness, Andrew D’Agositini was signed to a PTO, although I am not sure Toronto can rely too much on him. He’s played just two games for Newfoundland in the ECHL this season.
– Friday’s lines:
Robertson – Seney – Steeves
McMann – Blandisi – Ho-Sang
Ovechinnikov- Blandisi – Suomela
Clune – Douglas – Kopacka
Kivihalme – Myers
Krys – Duszak
Král – Rubins