For 30 minutes, the Toronto Marlies were in complete control of this game and should have gone on to win by a comfortable margin.

A lack of discipline and complacency crept into their performance, allowing a struggling Grand Rapids Griffins team to rally back from a three-goal deficit.

First Period

The Marlies found themselves on the penalty kill at the three-minute mark, but they didn’t allow Grand Rapids to build any momentum. Making his AHL debut between the pipes, Dryden MacKay turned aside three shots to earn some early confidence.

The Marlies‘ offense proceeded to take over from there with some clinical finishing. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev won the race on a stretch pass from Mac Hollowell and cut inside the Griffins’ defense. The diminutive forward got a quick shot off, beating Jussi Olkinuora with a low effort inside the far post.

The Marlies power play needed just one opportunity to double the lead, although they did ride their luck beforehand. Hollowell ripped a shot off the post before the Griffins almost tallied a shorthanded marker, but MacKay pulled off a sharp save on Albert Johansson.

The rookie netminder was rewarded as Pontus Holmberg pushed the puck over the goal line after Der-Arguchintsev’s shot hit the post and lingered in the crease.

The Marlies took a 3-0 lead into the intermission courtesy of a second power-play tally.
There was a little bit of good fortune to this goal — Der-Arguchintsev’s attempted feed across the slot hit the stick of Brian Lashoff and deflected the puck past Olkinuora.

The lone high-danger chance of the period for Grand Rapids arrived in the dying moments when Kyle Criscuolo got in behind Toronto’s defense, but MacKay stonewalled him with his best save of the game up until that point.

Second Period

Until the midway point of the middle frame, the Marlies were in complete control. Grand Rapids mustered a total of 12 shots, only two of which were high-danger scoring chances. MacKay denied Giavini Smith at the two-minute mark of the second period, but he was otherwise untested.

The Marlies drew a third power-play opportunity but couldn’t come up with anything before a man advantage for the Griffins injected some life back into their legs. Grand Rapids generated a pair of scoring chances and started to compete with more intent back at 5v5.

That bore fruit when the Griffins got on the board after a breakdown by the Marlies. The Griffins won a battle along the boards in their zone and transitioned with speed through the neutral zone. With enough numbers back, Toronto should not have allowed Joel L’Esperance to escape behind them, but L’Esperance finished on the cross-seam pass from Tyler Spezia, injecting some life into the home crowd.

To their credit, the Marlies re-established the three-goal cushion 68 seconds later. Logan Shaw led a 3-on-1 break, but his pass to William Villeneuve was a little behind the defenseman on the sticky ice. The rookie blue liner adjusted well by curling back around a backchecking Griffins player and slotting the puck home with aplomb.

The Marlies killed a late penalty to hold a 4-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

Third Period

It’s difficult to articulate how poorly the Marlies played in the final 20 minutes of regulation. The intensity of the opening half of the game dissipated, and the Marlies gift-wrapped the Griffins three goals inside 13 minutes.

It was curious why Greg Moore didn’t call a timeout at any stage between the first and second goals of the frame. The team needed to hit the reset button.

The first early Christmas present was gifted by Mac Hollowell. Under little pressure behind the goal line, he flicked a no-look pass behind his net that Cross Hanas gratefully intercepted. Hanas wasted no time in picking out an unmarked Andreasson, who fired home from the hash marks.

The Marlies could have killed the comeback push, but they wasted consecutive power plays, failing to generate a single shot.

Instead, Grand Rapids scored on their third shot of the period at the 10-minute mark. The Marlies lost a battle for possession in neutral ice, but there should have been little danger with all five skaters back in the defensive zone.

A number of Marlies were caught puck watching, and by the time Dominik Shine sent a pass back out to the middle of the zone, every Toronto player collapsed in the left circle. Jared McIsaac’s shot found a way past the Marlies’ rookie netminder.

Grand Rapids nearly tied the game from the restart, but Toronto survived a scramble in the crease as bodies fell everywhere in desperation.

The home fans didn’t have long to wait for a tying fourth goal, though. The Griffins finally converted on a power-play opportunity as a shot from Hanas hit the skate of Andreasson before banking in off the leg of Hollowell.

The teams split a total of six shots through the remaining seven minutes of regulation, but the Griffins were in the ascendancy and looked like the more likely team to score.


The extra frame lasted just 64 seconds. In keeping with the theme of the night, the Marlies gift-wrapped the Griffins the game-winner.

Joey Anderson was too easily stripped of possession by Andreasson inside the defensive zone before Hanas made no mistake for his second of the game.

Post Game Notes

– The Marlies extended their power play scoring streak to 11 games, tying the franchise record.

Dryden MacKay made his AHL debut with Dylan Ferguson unavailable due to illness. This loss isn’t on him, and I felt the team hung him out to dry at times. Hopefully, his confidence hasn’t been too badly impacted by losing his first AHL game in this fashion.

“He did a good job,” said Greg Moore. “It wasn’t the best of circumstances today. He wasn’t expecting to play, but he ends up in there. He battled for our team and gave us a chance to win. Ultimately, it was our care for the puck at as a team that created the chances against.”

– For 30 minutes, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev was a dominant force in this game. Grand Rapids simply couldn’t handle him, and he could have doubled his eventual point tally in this outing. A three-point haul including a pair of goals extends his point streak (3G/7A) to seven games.

“He was skating really fast at the beginning of the game,” said Moore. “He had a lot of pace through the middle of the rink. We have been talking a lot about him shooting the puck more. He has been working on it with the development staff. He came over the blue line, snapped it, and picked his spot there on the low far side. When he is feeling good and making plays with the puck, he can be very dangerous.”

– In his return to the AHL, Pontus Holmberg recorded a first multi-point haul (1G/1A).
This was his least effective performance of the season for the Marlies as he looked like a player who spent too much time without game action; everything he did was just a little off.

– A first AHL goal and multi-point haul for William Villeneuve. His play became a little sketchy and hurried in the final frame; he was one of a few players who could have used a timeout to reset.

“Every time he plays, he is adapting and getting stronger,” said Moore. “He is a quick study. He is figuring it out. It was a really top-end play there to have the poise to know there was no back pressure and he has time to cut up, get a shot off, and let the pressure go by him.”

Joseph Blandisi is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

– Before the game, Brendan Bonello was signed to a PTO to back up Dryden MacKay.

– Friday’s lines:

Abruzzese – Shaw – Anderson
Steeves – Holmberg – Gaudette
Slaggert – Abramov – Der-Arguchintsev
Chyzowski – Douglas – Johnstone

Král – Mete
Rifai – Hollowell
Hoefenmayer – Villenueve


Game Highlights: Griffins 5 vs. Marlies 4 (OT)

Greg Moore Post Game: Griffins 5 vs. Marlies 4 (OT)