For spells of this game, the Toronto Marlies appeared to be out of gas.
Playing their third game in less than 72 hours, mental mistakes and a lost special-teams bottle cost them at least a point in a 3-2 loss to the Abbotsford Canucks on Sunday.
The Marlies were flat in the opening period and a little fortunate to head into the first intermission at 0-0. They only threatened during the final seconds of the frame on a 5-on-3 power play, where Alex Steeves rang a one-time shot off the top of the crossbar and into the netting.
The Canucks should have had more to show for their dominance at 5v5. Chase Wouters struck the post on a power play, while Keith Petruzzelli made two solid saves to deny Phil Lockwood and Phil Di Giuseppe in an otherwise low-event 20 minutes.
The Marlies‘ two-man advantage carried over into the middle frame, but they failed to register a single shot. They finally got their act together back at even strength, generating two good scoring chances.
Kyle Clifford whistled a shot wide from the high slot following excellent work from Logan Shaw and Joey Anderson. Max Ellis combined nicely with Steeves, but the latter’s backhand effort narrowly missed the target from the slot.
The Marlies‘ inability to hit the net — Colin Delia didn’t need to make a save — came back to haunt them when Abbotsford broke the deadlock with a power-play tally. They toyed with the Marlies‘ penalty kill before Lane Pederson put the finishing touch on a well-crafted goal.
Steeves created a chance from nothing, dangling his way in the slot with some nifty stick work, but he couldn’t solve Delia.
The Marlies were able to tie the game at 1-1 if only for a couple of minutes. Clifford’s extra effort at the blue line kept the puck in the zone, allowing Shaw to tee up Anderson for a backdoor tap-in.
The Canucks quickly re-established their lead with another power-play tally. It was a similar story as the Marlies’ penalty kill again let them down and Pederson netted for a second time.
Toronto headed into the second intermission tied at 2-2 thanks to their first power-play goal of the game. From the left circle, Adam Gaudette ripped a one-time shot into the roof of the net.
The opening 10 minutes of the final frame were dominated by the Marlies in what was their best passage in the entire game. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev teed up Victor Mete inside the first minute, but the defenseman seemed unsure of whether to pass or shoot and his weak attempt toward the net didn’t really test the goaltender.
The scoring opportunities kept coming, but the ability to finish off plays wasn’t there. Clifford was the next to falter — on a broken play, he was unable to get a shot off from the slot while falling to the ice. Nick Abruzzese then led an odd-man break where shooting was the high-percentage option, but the rookie attempted a lofted feed to Gaudette that didn’t connect.
Marlies defensemen were causing the Canucks problems in the third period by activating at the right moments. Mikko Kokkonen found himself alone in the high slot, but with time to measure his effort, he sent a weak wrist shot into the crest of Delia’s jersey.
Toronto’s best chance of the period came after Delia misplayed the puck behind his net and gifted Steeves possession. There was no player more frustrated offensively in this game than Steeves, who couldn’t find Der-Arguchintsev parked out alone in front for what would have been a tap-in.
The Marlies then conceded the game-winning goal with a little under 10 minutes remaining. They were sloppy in the defensive zone — failing to clear the puck on two occasions — and were guilty of puck-watching in their own end. Missed assignments afforded John Stevens time in the slot to score on Abbotsford’s fifth shot of the period.
The Marlies were fortunate not to fall two goals behind from the restart of play. Di Giuseppe was unable to corral a pass in the slot that would have been a tap-in.
Toronto did everything but tie the game in the final nine minutes. A high shot from Axel Rindell led to a scramble in front, and Anderson and Steeves weren’t able to jam it past the goal line.
Shaw’s strong drive down the middle of the offensive zone led to a shot off of the crossbar with Delia beaten before Kokkonen rang the post 30 seconds later.
With two and a half minutes left, Der-Arguchintsev’s tried his hand at a solo effort. Flashing his speed and skill, the diminutive forward worked his way past every Abbotsford skater, but his finish from the slot was gloved by Delia. SDA drew penalty on the play, giving Toronto its last hope of earning a point.
The Marlies failed to register a shot, even with Petruzzelli pulled for the extra attacker, and ended with just 23 shots on net over the 60 minutes.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies continue to lead the North Division despite their fourth-regulation loss of the season.
– Abbotsford won the special teams battle connecting twice on four power plays while Toronto went 1-for-5.
– Joey Anderson and Adam Gaudette both hit the 10-goal mark for the season through 15 and 14 games, respectively.
– Joseph Woll made his first appearance this season in a backup role. He is still considered day-to-day, but with Dylan Ferguson unavailable, he only would have seen game action in an emergency situation.
– Speaking of Dylan Ferguson, he’s been diagnosed with a concussion and is considered week-to-week.
– Sunday’s lines:
Steeves – Shaw – Anderson
Clifford – Gaudette – Der-Arguchintsev
Abruzzese – Blandisi – Ellis
Chyzowski – Slaggert – Johnstone
Rifai – Mete
Kokkonen – Hollowell
Pietroniro – Rindell