If the Toronto Marlies narrowly miss out on the playoffs this season, dropped points like these will be the ones we look back on in anguish at year’s end.
The Marlies began brightly at five-on-five and almost got themselves on the board within 30 seconds, but Bobby McMann was turned aside by Antoine Bibeau.
Toronto broke the deadlock at the six-minute mark courtesy of another relentless forechecking shift from the fourth line. Zach O’Brien sent the puck from behind the goal line out into the slot, where Ryan Chyzowski made no mistake.
The only threat from Belleville came off of own-zone turnovers by the Marlies. After a couple of near misses, the Senators capitalized on one such mistake. A shot from Maxence Guenette was tipped at waist height by Viktor Lodin, giving Erik Källgren no chance.
Belleville earned the lone power play of the period, but Källgren made the two saves needed to keep the score at 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
From the start of the middle frame, the Marlies were on their heels. The first four minutes were almost exclusively spent in the Toronto zone, where the sustained pressure resulted in a Belleville go-ahead marker.
It came off of another point shot from Guenette, whose shot was deftly redirected by Brennan Saulnier in the slot.
Toronto’s penalty kill went to work on four occasions in the second period and remained perfect. The Marlies also generated two shorthanded chances of note.
A solo rush and attempted top-shelf finish from Joseph Blandisi forced a good save out of Bibeau. A two-on-one break by Logan Shaw and Joey Anderson resulted in a fantastic rebound chance for the latter, but the puck spun off his stick with an empty net to shoot at.
At five-on-five, the Marlies continued to make life hard on themselves. Nick Abruzzese committed a pair of defensive-zone giveaways inside 30 seconds, but Toronto escaped unscathed.
The Marlies generated some good looks on their lone power play opportunity of the middle frame, but the timing of the final pass or shot was a little off.
A positive first minute of the final frame for the Marlies was undone within seconds after Adam Gaudette’s high hit on Lodin sent the Belleville forward down to the ice in a heap. The Senators forward was helped off the ice and into the locker room for further treatment, and it spelled the end of the night for Gaudette (assessed a two, five, and 10 for the dangerous hit).
Toronto’s penalty kill remained steadfast, limiting Belleville to just six shots in five minutes. Källgren didn’t need to perform any major heroics in the crease.
As the Marlies attempted to find their footing back at even strength, Belleville tallied less than two minutes after the penalty expired to open up a 3-1 lead. As Angus Crookshank led what was essentially an intermittent two-on-two rush, Egor Sokolov attempted to barge between the two Marlies defensemen and wiped out Matteo Pietronirio on the play. A falling Pietroniro ended up impeding Matt Hellickson as Crookshank skated in unattended to score on Källgren.
If the Marlies felt hard done by the lack of a penalty call on Belleville’s third goal, they were furious shortly afterward. Axel Rindell was brutally targeted by a late, blindside hit from Scott Sabourin, whose history is well known. Toronto’s rookie defenseman was removed from the game to enter concussion protocol.
The two-minute boarding call would’ve been inadequate under any circumstances, but it was especially egregious in light of the five-minute major handed out to Gaudette earlier in the period.
The Marlies did make Sabourin pay on the scoreboard when Anderson struck on the subsequent power play to bring Toronto within one with a little over nine minutes remaining. They also threatened on a second third-period power play, where McMann didn’t get everything on his shot from the slot.
The Marlies struggled to create at even strength until Greg Moore went for broke with a little under three minutes left on the clock. With an extra attacker on the ice, the Marlies hemmed Belleville in their zone for almost the entirety of the remaining time in regulation. Despite firing eight consecutive shots, the Marlies were unable to solve Bibeau for a third time, and Belleville sealed the two points with a late empty-net goal.
Post Game Notes
– Continuing to impress on his return from injury, Bobby McMann fired six shots (tied for the team-high) in this game and continually got himself between the dots in high-dangerous scoring areas. McMann also created a scoring chance on a shorthanded rush; he was unable to get a shot off, but he should have drawn a penalty on the play.
– Joey Anderson broke a five-game pointless slump with his fifth power-play goal of the season. He’s now just three shy of last year’s total in 56 games.
– One point in the last five games is not overly concerning for a rookie forward, but the defensive play of Nick Abruzzese of late is concerning. I mentioned the defensive-zone turnovers in the recap; it’s becoming a pattern for him and is something to keep a keen eye on. He fired six shots on goal, but he was less of a threat offensively throughout the game, and he appears to be overthinking it at times. Abruzzese is a smart enough player that I’m certain he and the coaching staff will iron it out.
– At the time of writing, there is no word on whether Adam Gaudette will receive any supplemental discipline for his hit on Viktor Lodin.
– Greg Moore confirmed that Axel Rindell is none the worse for wear after the hit from Scott Sabourin. He cleared concussion protocol before returning to the game.
– Noel Hoefenmayer missed the game due to an illness and is considered day-to-day.
– Wednesday’s lines:
McMann – Shaw – Anderson
Abruzzese – Blandisi – Gaudette
Steeves – Slaggert – Ellis
Chyzowski – Johnstone – O’Brien
Rifai – Miller
Pietroniro – Kokkonen
Hellickson – Rindell