“Given the circumstances of where we are in the season and how important this game was, the results are very tough to swallow right now.”
This was an all-too-familiar incomplete performance from the Toronto Marlies in the Greg Moore era.
After flattering to deceive with a dominant first period in which they built a 2-0 lead, they conceded three goals in the middle frame, tied the game back up twice, and then lost late in regulation.
This was close to a must-win game in the post-season race, but the intensity and sharpness to the execution wasn’t good enough throughout, especially between the pipes, where the Marlies couldn’t buy a save.
With just five games remaining in the regular season, the Marlies‘ playoff destiny is no longer in their own hands.
Toronto got themselves on the board inside four minutes with a power-play tally. A blistering shot from Alex Steeves produced a juicy rebound for the retuning Joey Anderson to finish into an open net.
The Marlies created several good opportunities to extend their lead. Josh Ho-Sang and Mikhail Abramov failed to make a 2-on-1 break count, while Joseph Blandisi was denied after a good drive to the net off of his backhand.
The second goal arrived late in the period on an innocent-looking play. Chad Krys shrugged off his man to drive the net, but his weak backhand shot should have been easily stopped. Instead, Mads Sogaard produced a rebound into the high slot, where Brett Seney made no mistake with a one-time finish.
Unlike Toronto, the Belleville Senators have established a clear identity under head coach Troy Mann as a generally hard-working, strong forechecking team who never lies down.
The Marlies committed the cardinal hockey sin of gifting Belleville a way back into the game early in the middle frame. Joseph Blandisi sent a pizza of a pass from the boards to the middle of the defensive zone that was intercepted by Viktor Lodin, who cleanly beat Michael Hutchinson from point-blank range.
Belleville tied the game at the midway point thanks to more shoddy defensive play. Dillon Heatherington shot from the top of the left circle hoping for a rebound, and Hutchinson kicked one out. Although the puck dropped at the feet of Teemu Kivihalme, the Toronto defenseman wasn’t sure on the puck, allowing Mark Kastelic to jump on the loose puck and finish from the low slot.
It would be a stretch to call it a turning point in the game, but Toronto created a chance to retake the lead after killing off a penalty. Seney sprang from the box onto a breakaway, but Mads Sogaard denied him to keep it a 2-2 game.
The Senators immediately went and established their first lead of the game with 2:18 remaining after a turnover by Phillipe Myers below the Toronto goal line allowed Egor Sokolov to tee up Cole Reinhardt for a tap-in.
A slashing infraction followed by a delay-of-game penalty presented Toronto with a 5-on-3 power play to finish the second period. They made it count thanks to who else but Nick Robertson, who ripped a one-time shot home from the top of the circles with three seconds left on the clock.
On the power play carrying over from the middle frame, the Marlies were unable to convert before the Senators scored the go-ahead goal less than two minutes in. A dump-in wasn’t dealt with before a missed assignment in front of the net allowed Andrew Agozzino to tee up Lassi Thomson for his 10th goal of the season.
It was a quick release from the top of the left circle, but the Marlies needed a save at that point of the game. With no screen in front of him, the veteran netminder would have wanted to come up with one for his team there.
There were chances for Seney and Myers at the six-minute mark, but for the most part, Belleville was keeping Toronto’s attack at bay.
It came as a bit of a surprise when the Marlies tied the game with 10 minutes remaining in regulation. A stretch pass from Myers was deftly deflected by Ho-Sang in the neutral zone, sending Robertson in on goal. With his confidence sky-high, Robertson scored with an emphatic move around Sogaard to tie the game at 4-4.
With the momentum seemingly in their favour, there would surely be a huge push from there for the winning goal, right? Unfortuantely, Toronto recorded just three shots on goal through the second half of the final frame.
The decisive ninth goal of the game came with just 79 seconds remaining. After Kivihamle turned over possession below his goal line, the Marlies didn’t touch the puck again and were puck chasing as Belleville worked it around in the offensive zone.
There was a little fortune to the goal’s creation as Jake Lucchinis’ shot was blocked and fell to Viktor Lodin, but there was nothing lucky about the finish. The Swedish forward scored his fourth goal in seven games since joining Ottawa’s affiliate to secure the two points for Belleville.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto’s “magic number” to make the playoffs is now 11 points with five games remaining. You don’t need me to tell you the math isn’t in their favour. Help is going to be needed from other teams ahead of them in the playoff race.
At this point, it’s a necessity that the Marlies win their remaining games. With three of those against Laval (starting Friday night) and a pair against Belleville, it’s an uphill climb ahead.
– Nick Robertson extended his point streak to seven games (6-2-8) with a pair of goals.
– This was a tough game in which to make a debut for Pontus Holmberg. He was not only adjusting to smaller ice, new teammates, and new systems, but he was also dealing with jet lag having been in Canada for a short while. Factoring that in, it was a good performance that included plenty of touches of the puck. He didn’t shy away from the physical side of the game and was certainly creative in possession, if not always on the same wavelength as his linemates.
“I thought he held his own, did a really good job, and added to our team,” said Moore. “You can see how responsible he is and how smart he is in tight spaces with the puck.”
– A three-point haul for Brett Seney (1-2-3) was his second in three games. He benefited from the return of his best friend Joey Anderson; their line with Holmberg was very effective in the first period, in particular.
– Wednesday’s lines:
Seney – Holmbery – Anderson
Robertson – Abramov – Ho-Sang
Michaelis – Blandisi – Steeves
Clune – Suomela – Duszak
Dahlström – Myers
Král – Kivihalme
Krys – Rubins