“We got better as the first period went on,” said head coach Greg Moore. “The team did a good job of recognizing it and getting back into the game. We found some momentum on special teams, and I thought we got stronger as the game went on.”
If Hartford had taken more of their chances around the net early on, the Toronto Marlies may have dug themselves too big of a hole to climb out of, but they survived the opening onslaught, settled into the game, and picked up a much-needed 4-2 victory over Hartford on Friday night.
The opening four minutes were dominated by the Wolf Pack. Hutchinson faced eight shots in that span, making some important early saves and also riding his luck along with his teammates.
As is so often the case after the team in control fails to take advantage, the Marlies scored on their first shot on net. Brett Seney’s shot attempt bounced off the extended knee of Joseph Blandisi and past Keith Kinkaid.
It was a tale of “what ifs” for Hartford as they failed to convert on their shots from high-danger areas and passes on odd-man rushes.
Mikhail Abramov, Marc Michaelis, and Seney came close to doubling the lead as Toronto improved as the period wore on. Kinkaid kept his team within one with a string of good saves, and Hartford began the middle frame on a carried-over power play.
With over three minutes remaining on Josh Ho-Sang’s double-minor penalty, the Wolf Pack had plenty of opportunities to set up with the man advantage, but that never really materialized. Instead, Toronto struck at the other end on their first shot of the period.
He wasn’t officially awarded a point, but Filip Král won a battle along the right boards to cut out an attempted zone entry before Seney took control and slid a perfect pass to Nick Robertson, dissecting two Hartford skaters in the process. The left winger broke free and ripped a shot past the blocker of Kinkaid to double Toronto’s lead while shorthanded.
Hartford responded late in their extended power play. There was a degree of luck to it; Greco’s centering feed hit the leg of Phil Myres and deflected into the net as Hutchinson lost sight of the puck.
Toronto continued to take penalties, but they emerged from another pair of penalty kills unscathed. A combination of steady goaltending, poor finishing from Hartford, and fortunate puck luck were on the Marlies‘ side throughout the first half of the game.
The Marlies then struck late in the period on a 5-on-3 power-play tally. Seney was the architect of a beautiful reverse no-look pass to Alex Steeves after Joseph Duscak retrieved possession behind the Hartford net. From an acute angle just above the goal line, Steeves was able to slide the puck past Kinkaid.
A 3-1 lead against a desperate team is never safe, but Toronto took control of the third period and never gave Hartford a sniff of a comeback. The Wolf Pack were consistently on the back foot and registered just four shots on goal through the final 20 minutes.
A fourth goal would have killed the game as a contest, but the Marlies couldn’t find a way past Kinkaid at 5v5 or on two separate power plays.
A man advantage for Hartford with a little over two minutes represented their best chance at sparking a comeback, but with Kinkaid pulled for an extra attacker, Bobby McMann put the final nail in the coffin with a long-range empty-net goal. A favourable bounce may have allowed the puck to find the net, but there was nothing lucky about the work done by Myers and McMann to win back possession in the build-up.
Post Games Notes
– Toronto went 1/5 on the power play and 4/5 on the penalty kill while scoring two shorthanded goals to handily win the special teams battle.
– A second straight win for the Marlies means they remain in fourth place in the North Division. A loss to Syracuse Saturday evening could see them slip to fifth or sixth place depending on other results. That’s how tight the standings are.
– The Marlies’ rookie scoring race continues to heat up. Alex Steeves and Bobby McMann both recorded their 22nd goals of the season and are now just one shy of tying Josh Leivo’s rookie franchise record.
“We are talking a lot about how these guys can put the puck in the net, but the greater narrative is how much McMann and Steeves are doing away from the puck and how much they’re helping the team in a lot of other areas defensively and on special teams,” said Moore. “They’re hard in the d-zone and willing to block shots. There is a lot of offense coming from those guys, but there is a lot more they are capable of. They are a big part of our team.”
– This was the fourth goal in five games for Nick Robertson, who extends his point streak to five games (4-1-5). He also led all skaters with seven shots on goal and was a dominant force for the Marlies in this game.
– A three-assist game for Brett Seney should give him a much-needed boost of confidence. The veteran forward had recorded just three points (0-3-3) in the previous eight games and hasn’t scored since March 19.
“[Seney] has been the catalyst of our team all season,” said Moore. “With Joey Anderson out, he has been strong in leveling up some other guys who have had an opportunity to play with him. He was a big part of our win in this game.”
– Phil Myers registered his first multi-point haul for Toronto with a pair of assists.
– A 27-save performance from Michael Hutchinson included some crucial stops early in the game, and he remained solid throughout the 60 minutes en route to his second consecutive win. He has stopped 56 of his last 58 shots against after allowing five goals on 19 shots last Friday vs. Grand Rapids.
– Friday’s lines:
Robertson – Der-Arguchintsev – Steeves
Seney – Blandisi – Ho-Sang
Michaelis – Abramov – McMann
Ovchinnikov – Douglas – Suomela
Dahlström – Myers
Kivihalme – Duszak
Král – Hollowell