Greg Moore called this a “professional performance,” although the Toronto Marlies did squander another third-period lead and played a little tentatively following Friday’s collapse.
“This [Griffins] team has a lot of skill, and they have played us very hard the times that we have played them,” said Greg Moore. “Tough atmosphere and building to play in, and we’ll take three out of four points every day.”
The Marlies got off the worst possible start in this game by handing the Griffins a lead inside 74 seconds. After a misplay from Pontus Holmberg resulted in a 2-on-1 rush for Grand Rapids, Pontus Andreasson dished off to Givani Smith, who scored on the Griffins’ second shot of the game.
The Marlies‘ play with the puck might have been tentative, but they weren’t backing down when it came to the physical stakes. Marc Johnstone and Givani Smith tangled up at the three-minute mark, leading to four-on-four action.
The Marlies took advantage of the extra space by tying the game at 1-1. A dump-in by Mac Hollowell was picked up by the alert Logan Shaw, who was a step ahead of the defense as he curled around the net and scored on a wraparound.
Dryden McKay pulled off a couple of sharp saves to keep Grand Rapids off the board, and the Marlies killed off the first power play of the game. At the other end of the ice, they struggled to generate much offensively outside of a pair of efforts on goal from Nick Abruzzese.
The middle frame provided no goals mostly thanks to the play of both goaltenders. McKay showed why he had been named ECHL goaltender of the week in October in turning aside six high-danger scoring chances for Grand Rapids. The netminder showed remarkable composure through back-to-back penalty kills, and he saved his best for the final two minutes of the frame.
With Toronto on the power play, a mistake from Hollowell led to what looked like a sure goal against, but McKay robbed Dominik Shine and Tyler Spezia.
The Marlies again struggled to generate enough chances offensively in the middle frame. There was a pair of shifts inside the opening six minutes in which Toronto dominated possession and zone time, but they failed to turn it into anything meaningful.
Three chances for Graham Slaggert — a player who stands out in every game he plays — were the best threat the Marlies had to offer, but Victor Brattstrom stood tall in the Griffins’ net, including on a shorthanded breakaway opportunity for Slaggert.
The Marlies immediately put themselves on the backfoot 12 seconds into the third period. With Joey Anderson in the box, the Griffins were presented with a fourth chance to capitalize with the man advantage. McKay again came up with two big saves, denying Taro Hirose and Cross Hanas to keep the game tied.
The go-ahead tally from Toronto arrived out of the blue. It was the Max Ellis show as the Marlies caught Grand Rapids on an ill-advised line change.
The rookie forward burst through the middle of the Griffins’ defense, but he was unable to sneak the puck in behind Brattstrom, who aggressively challenged the shooter on the play. With the goaltender sprawled outside of his crease, Ellis flicked the puck back through the blue paint, presenting Slaggert with a tap-in.
The Marlies should have made sure of the victory long before the third-period buzzer. Consecutive power plays, including nine seconds with a two-man advantage, went to waste as Toronto registered just three shots on goal.
Holmberg attempted to make up for his early mistake with a drive to the net, but he couldn’t find the finishing touch.
The Griffins rarely threatened to tie the game, with McKay only tested once by Andreasson before a late penalty appeared to seal their fate. With 2:42 remaining on the clock, the Marlies headed on the power play with a chance to kill off the game.
Instead, the Griffins killed the penalty, pulled Brattsrom, and Hanas tied the game at 2-2 on a shot through traffic with nine seconds remaining.
In a feisty game that threatened to tip over the edge on several occasions, Grand Rapids’ lack of discipline cost them in the extra frame. A dangerous and needless hit from Joel L’Esperances sent him to the penalty box for boarding, where he was joined by Smith, who attempted to engage a Toronto player to even up the penalty count.
Instead, Toronto went to a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play, and this time they made it count. Joey Anderson finished off a rebound from an Alex Steeves shot to ensure the Marlies took three of a possible four points from their weekend in Michigan.
– The game-winning goal set a new franchise record. It was the 12th consecutive game that the Marlies have scored at least once on the power play.
– Congratulations to Dryden McKay on his first AHL victory. Thrust into both starts in a back-to-back, the rookie turned aside 26 of 28 shots in this game and played a key role in the middle frame, in particular, to keep the score tied.
“You could tell he looked more comfortable today,” said Greg Moore. “It was his first game yesterday, and to play back-to-back is not easy at all for a goalie. He looked very comfortable. He made some huge saves for us to keep us in it and give us a chance. I can’t say enough about somebody coming in and battling like that for the team.”
– Max Ellis recorded his first AHL point with the primary assist on Toronto’s second goal. Along with Graham Slaggert and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Ellis was part of a line that provided energy and was a consistent offensive threat throughout the game.
“Every game that [Ellis] has gotten into, he has gotten better and better,” said Moore. “He is earning our trust. He is playing responsibly. He is really fast. He puts a lot of pressure on the other team when they get the puck. He can get into open ice really well and get up ice for some shots.”
– With a secondary assist (10th helper this season) on the game-winner, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev extended his point streak to eight games (3G/8A).
– A small milestone for Noel Hoefenmayer: He registered his 10th point in his 11th game with a secondary assist on the second goal.
– Joey Anderson’s game-winner was his third power-play tally and eighth goal of the year through 12 appearances.
– Recalled from Newfoundland, Axel Rindell made his AHL debut paired with Hoefenmayer. It was a baptism of fire for the rookie, but on the balance, he coped well. He made no glaring mistakes, and two solid breakout plays stood out.
“Tough environment and tough game to come in for your first game in the American league,” said Moore. “He did a really good job. I thought his puck play was really solid. He put himself in some good defensive positions. He gave us the minutes we needed to help us win.”
– Saturday’s lines:
Abruzzese – Shaw – Anderson
Steeves – Holmberg – Gaudette
Der-Arguchintsev – Slaggert – Ellis
Chyzowski – Douglas – Johnstone
Rifai – Hollowell
Hellickson – Pietroniro
Hoefenmayer – Rindell