Excellent goaltending has covered up a multitude of sins for the Toronto Marlies this season.
Despite a good performance from Erik Källgren, defensive woes cost the Marlies a point on Saturday against Rochester as they surrendered a 2-0 advantage in the second period and a 3-2 lead in the final two minutes of regulation.
The Amerks dominated the opening eight minutes of the game and should have established a healthy lead. Toronto was on the back foot immediately after taking a penalty 22 seconds in.
Erik Källgren was the difference in the opening frame, denying Aleksandr Kisakov, Michael Mersch, Brandon Biro, and Sean Malone with excellent stops, making 16 saves in all.
Logan Shaw rattled the crossbar on a lone foray during Rochester’s spell of dominance. It took until almost the midway point of the frame for the Marlies to find their feet and cause the Amerks some problems.
A dominating shift from the top line spurred Toronto into action. Efforts from Bobby McMann, Alex Steeves, and Matteo Pietroniro all forced Malcolm Subban into his first real action of the game.
The Marlies‘ fourth line drew a penalty at the 12-minute mark, and the power play converted through McMann’s deadly snipe from the high slot to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
The Marlies‘ penalty kill then ensured that the lead held going into the first intermission.
Toronto struggled out of the gate, spending the first 45 seconds of the frame desperately defending as Rochester started quickly. After surviving the initial onslaught, the Marlies should have doubled their lead, but Nick Abruzzese missed the target after fantastic work from Semyon Der-Arguchintsev to create the scoring chance.
The miss didn’t seem that important as Toronto struck on the power play less than two minutes later. After initially struggling to initially gain the zone, Max Ellis delivered an accurate one-time finish from the left faceoff dot.
The Marlies killed another penalty to keep their two-goal advantage intact, but the momentum changed on a dangerous hit and subsequent fight.
Tyson Kozak delivered a check to the head of Der-Arguchintsev and was assessed only a minor penalty. Noel Hoefenmayer jumped in to defend his teammate, dropping the gloves not with Kozak but with Kohen Olischefski, who was also on the scene. The Toronto defenseman was assessed 10, five, and two, denying Toronto a power play.
Whether the Marlies were rattled by what had happened or just switched off mentally, they gifted Rochester a way back into the game. A blind pass from Tommy Miller was intercepted and chased down in a foot race by Mason Jobst. Lukas Rousek scored on the odd-man rush to put some life into the legs of the Amerks, who then tied the game 20 seconds later.
William Villeneuve’s pass to Joseph Blandisi in the defensive zone wasn’t the best, and a battle for possession ensued. Neither Marlies player came out on top, allowing Linus Weissbach to take possession and send it out front for the unmarked Biro to score with ease.
The Marlies responded well to the adversity, establishing a 3-2 lead at the midway point of the game. Shaw led an odd-man rush and McMann’s pinpoint finish beat Subban on his stick side.
Toronto’s captain and Mikko Kokkonen both had chances to double the Marlies’ lead to no avail. At the other end, another breakdown — this time on a power play — created a grade-A scoring chance for Jobst, but Källgren came to his team’s rescue.
Once again, Rochester began the period with more intent. They generated six shots without reply through the opening six minutes, helped by Toronto taking another penalty.
Källgren was excellent between the pipes, turning aside Mersch, Weissbach, and Malone as the Marlies survived the barrage.
Toronto generated a couple of scoring chances in their search for an insurance marker. The inventive Der-Arguchintsev couldn’t bury on a chipped finishing attempt in tight after excellent setup work from Abruzzese and Villeneuve. Abruzzese created an opportunity for himself with his speed and skill, but his low finish was stopped by Subban.
The Marlies appeared to be in control defensively as Rochester pushed for an equalizer, even when the Amerks pulled their goaltender late in the period. However, Pietroniro dithered in the high slot with a chance to clear, and Blandisi was unable to take charge of the situation before Biro stole possession. The latter teed up Malone to tie the game at 3-3 with just 1:45 remaining in regulation.
After gifting Rochester a point through regulation play, it was doubly disappointing that the Marlies did not take advantage of a power-play opportunity following a too-many-men call. There were chances to score during the delayed penalty, but Der-Arguchintsev struck the post and had another effort well saved by Subban.
Toronto mustered four shots with the extra skater as the overtime period fizzled out. Rochester prevailed in the shootout, with Rousek the only skater to score for either team.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies began overtime with one forward and two defensemen before immediately changing to two forwards once they won the initial faceoff. It’ll be interesting to see whether that concept sticks moving forward. The Leafs also started their three-on-three overtime period that way against Calgary on Saturday, but we didn’t see how it would play out due to the Flames’ instant penalty off of the draw.
– A pair of power-play tallies take the Marlies’ total to 30 this season. Only the Calgary Wranglers (32) have scored more power-play goals.
– The Marlies’ home form is becoming problematic, and it is not just down to defensive problems. Toronto has scored just 12 goals in their last six games (five losses).
– In the three games before sustaining an injury, Bobby McMann failed to register a point. In the five games since his return, the winger has registered at least a point (3G/3A) in each. He’s been threatening to score in bunches and was good value for a pair of goals in this game.
“Powerful and impactful,” said Greg Moore of McMann. “He is a really strong guy who wins a lot of puck battles, transports the puck, and can obviously shoot it as well. He had been getting some chances of late, and they hadn’t been going in. It was good to see them go in.”
– Erik Källgren was visibly upset after this loss and slammed his stick on the bench on his way off the ice. The frustration should be with the team’s play and not his own performance. Källgren turned aside 34 of 37 shots and had little chance on the three goals he allowed.
– Two assists extend Logan Shaw’s point streak to eight games (1G/8A). The captain leads his team in scoring with 28 points (8G/20A) in 24 games.
– Saturday’s lines:
McMann – Shaw – Steeves
Abruzzese – Der-Arguchintsev – Blandisi
Chyzowski – Abramov – Ellis
Centazzo – Slaggert – Johnstone
Kokkonen – Miller
Rifai – Hoefenmayer
Pietroniro – Villeneuve