After a Friday night loss in Belleville in which the Toronto Marlies were second best in almost every category, they bounced back immediately in Saturday’s win over Abbotsford.
The Marlies could not have dreamed of a better start, drawing a penalty within the opening minute and then scoring on the man advantage with 76 seconds on the clock.
Noel Hoefenmayer worked a give-and-go with Logan Shaw before shooting from the point. It wasn’t his trademark booming shot; more of an effort on goal aimed at creating a rebound. That’s exactly what happened and Joey Anderson — parked at the top of the blue paint — jumped on it for his ninth of the season.
The Marlies survived a few scares to keep their early advantage intact. Matt Alfaro struck the far post from a tight angle with Dylan Ferguson out of position. That was a theme during Ferguson’s performance in which he was often scrambling and swimming out of his crease to make saves.
Abbotsford’s first power play included lots of creative puck movement but no finish. On their own man advantage, Toronto nearly made it a perfect two-for-two; from the slot, Alex Steeves rang his shot off the post with Arturs Silovs beaten.
The Marlies doubled their lead in a similar fashion to the opening goal. With Anderson again providing the screen in front, Hoefenmayer’s shot this time found its way directly into the net.
To Ferguson’s credit, he pulled off an important double save in the final minute to deny Lane Pederson from getting the visitors on the board heading into the first intermission.
Abbotsford began the middle frame with some high-intensity play and dominated the opening two and a half minutes. However, they only generated two shots on goal, and Ferguson did enough to keep the Canucks at bay.
After a penalty halted the Abbotsford pressure, the Marlies struck for a second power-play goal of the game. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev orchestrated a zone entry and received possession back courtesy of Mikhail Abramov and Joseph Blandidi. Der-Arguchintsev, who has so much confidence in front of goal this season, sniped from the top of circles into the roof of the net.
The Marlies crawled into a shell somewhat afterward, and despite killing a penalty, allowed Abbotsford to gain a foothold in the game. John Stevens had the easiest of tap-ins after the puck laid in the crease following another floundering save by Ferguson.
The Canucks then drew within one with 11 seconds remaining. From an acute angle, Linus Karlsson threw a hopeful attempt toward the far post and the puck found the net with Ferguson again out of position.
Keith Petruzzelli replaced Dylan Ferguson to begin the final frame, with the report from the team indicating that Ferguson was placed in concussion protocol.
The Marlies could have re-established their lead at the two-minute mark when a blocked shot sent Blandisi away, but he dropped the puck back for the trailing Abramov, who should’ve shot initially instead of rounding the net.
After the wasted opportunity, Abbotsford tied the game at three. Pederson’s deft redirect alone in the slot solved Petruzzelli through his five-hole.
It’s unclear what Steeves did to upset the Canucks, but he was clearly targeted in the third period. The first occasion was a blind cross-check delivered by Jett Woo as the Toronto forward was about to leave the ice for the bench, resulting in a game misconduct and a five-minute power play.
Barring the final few seconds of the power play, the Marlies rarely threatened to score. There wasn’t much urgency to seize the opportunity to put the game to bed, and Petruzzelli pulled off two fantastic saves to deny the Canucks a shorthanded goal. Stevens was denied on a solo breakaway attempt, and the Toronto netminder robbed Justin Dowling on an odd-man rush.
Within seconds of the penalty expiring, Kyle Rau decided to deliver another cross-check to Steeves, putting the Marlies back on the power play. This time, Toronto made them pay. After a couple of blocked shots during a flurry of action, the puck fell kindly for Abramov to finish off.
Abbotsford recorded just one shot through the final five minutes of regulation, and it came on the man advantage. An effort from Linus Karlsson through traffic looked as if it might fool an unsighted Petruzzelli, but the Toronto netminder got his glove hand up and was able to bat it away from danger.
Adam Gaudette made sure of victory by slotting his ninth goal of the season into the empty net to ensure the Marlies got back on the winning track after the letdown on Friday night.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies have notched 10 wins in 14 games this season. The last time Toronto came close to this record was in 2019-20 when Sheldon Keefe was still in charge and achieved 10 wins in 15 games that season.
– The Marlies’ power play struck three times on five attempts, improving to 31.7% on the season. It’s still early, but could this be the best season in franchise history for the power play? The 2016-17 roster registered at 22.3%, in case you’re wondering.
– This was the fourth multi-point haul of the season for Noel Hoefenmayer, who tallied a goal and assist in the opening frame. His 12 points (2G/10A) in 13 games rank him fifth among all AHL defensemen in scoring.
“The [Hoefenmayer – Villeneuve] pairing was great,” said Greg Moore after the game. “Villeneuve is coming along really fast. He has a lot of potential in his play and is a smart, cerebral player. Hoefenmayer has been consistent for us. He is playing hard minutes, especially compared to the role he played last year. He is stepping up big time and is a lot harder to play against.”
– Kyle Clifford made his season debut for Toronto and was ineffective offensively. Before the game, I thought a top-six role was asking a lot, but it felt as if it was aimed toward getting the veteran more playing time coming off of his injury.
– Saturday’s lines:
Steeves – Shaw – Anderson
Clifford – Gaudette – Der-Arguchintsev
Abruzzese – Abramov – Blandisi
Slaggert – Douglas – Johnstone
Rifai – Mete
Hellickson – Kokkonen
Hoefenmayer – Villeneuve