A less-than-stellar outing from Erik Källgren, coupled with missed assignments defensively, meant the Toronto Marlies required a shootout to secure the second point against Lehigh on Saturday afternoon.
Special-teams success was the difference maker for the Marlies — the power play struck three times, and the penalty kill was a perfect three-for-three.
The Marlies lacked intensity to their game in the early stages of the game and found themselves 2-0 down inside eight minutes.
From the right circle, Wyatte Wylie’s low shot should not have caused many problems. Erik Källgren gave up the juiciest of rebounds off of his pads, and the puck ended up on the stick of Olle Lycksell in the left circle for an empty-net finish.
It didn’t get any better for Källgren, who was at fault for Lehigh’s second goal, a wrist shot from the point by Adam Ginning that beat him clean.
Toronto was quiet offensively until a power-play opportunity 50 seconds after the 2-0 goal. Parked in front, Joey Anderson redirected a point shot from Logan Shaw to halve the deficit on Toronto’s third shot of the period through 10 minutes.
The goal didn’t immediately galvanize the Marlies, but it did give them a little more impetus. The top line then provided the tying marker courtesy of a familiar scorer.
After an initial shot by Bobby McMann, Logan Shaw grabbed possession and launched the puck back toward the slot. McMann applied a redirect that forced Felix Sandstrom into a good save, but the rebound fell kindly for Anderson to finish off.
The Marlies finished the frame in the ascendancy, and on the balance of play, they deserved a go-ahead goal. The intermission couldn’t have come at a worse time from a Toronto perspective.
The middle frame was a wild 20 minutes of hockey and not a period the Marlies will look back on fondly.
Inside the opening three minutes, the teams shared six excellent scoring chances, but the goaltenders prevailed, at least for the time being.
The power play connected for a second time to give Toronto a 3-2 lead. An incisive passing moment, capped off by Anderson’s superb cross-crease feed, resulted in a goal for Nick Abruzzese.
The Marlies’ advantage lasted just 60 seconds. A turnover followed by poor defensive coverage left the dangerous Artem Anisimov alone on the doorstep, where the Lehigh forward beat Källgren on his short side — probably another goal he would want back.
The Marlies narrowly avoided falling behind on Lehigh’s first power play of the game thanks to some help from the goalpost.
The Marlies then struck for a third time on their own man advantage. Adam Gaudette was afforded some space in the slot and sniped his 14th goal of the season.
This time, the lead lasted 66 seconds. It was reminiscent of a goal recently allowed against Utica as three Toronto players stood and watched three Lehigh forwards pass the puck around, and Anisimov tapped it in for his second of the game.
The Marlies finished the period on the penalty kill, but they almost took the lead for a third time. The effervescent Joseph Blandisi created a partial breakaway chance that brought a good save from Sandstrom.
The final frame of regulation was a low-event 20 minutes. Neither team was able to capitalize on a power play apiece, and scoring chances were at a premium.
the Marlies almost snatched a late victory through opportunities for Anderson, Hoefenmayer, and McMann, but Sandstrom stood tall to ensure his team gained at least a point.
Both teams could have claimed the extra point in a very entertaining extra frame. Källgren redeemed himself with four excellent saves, while William Villeneuve almost won the game singlehandedly after dangling his way into the slot.
Neither goaltender could be solved, and for the second time this season, Toronto faced the prospect of a shootout. Gaudette and Anderson both scored and a pair of saves from Källgren secured the extra point for the Marlies.
Post Game Notes
– Joey Anderson rarely misses a beat when he returns to the AHL. His two goals and an assist gave him his third three-point haul of the season, and with a little more puck luck, he might have finished with a hat trick. His shootout goal proved to be the game-winner.
“He is Mr. Consistency,” said Greg Moore. “It was a big response from the team in the first when down two goals. Our team found their way back into it quickly, and he had a big part in that. That is why he is a leader on our team. He drives a lot of things for us.”
– Two power-play points (1G/1A) for Nick Abruzzese took his season tally to 21 points in 32 games, and he now has eight points in his last eight with three multi-point games over that stretch.
– Logan Shaw moved up ninth in AHL scoring with a pair of assists. With 35 points (11G/24A) in 32 games, Shaw has already matched his points total from last season with Belleville (53 games).
– A primary assist extended Bobby McMann’s point streak to five games (3G/4A). He and Anderson led all skaters with five shots.
– There is little point in dwelling on Erik Källgren’s performance. It was a poor game overall for the goaltender, but how he responds in the next game is far more important, and his ability to stay in the fight and come up with some big saves in overtime was encouraging.
“It is a game he should take some confidence from,” said Moore. “On the big save in the overtime on the three-on-one, he had to slide across and make a save on the one-timer. There was the shootout as well, and some big saves in made in the second period when we had some defensive breakdowns. He has been wanting better of himself of late, but this should be a confidence builder for him.”
– Saturday’s lines:
McMann – Shaw – Anderson
Abruzzese – Der-Arguchintsev – Blandisi
Clifford – Gaudette – Steeves
Slaggert – Abramov – Johnstone
Král – Hoefenmayer
Kokkonen – Hollowell
Rifai – Villeneuve