Matchups between Toronto and Belleville this season have not been short of goals or momentum swings.
After a low-event first 20 minutes, the Marlies found their groove and should have put the game to bed long before the end of regulation. Instead, the Marlies allowed Belleville to hang around, erase a two-goal deficit, and force extra time.
A hard-working and strong forechecking team, Belleville flourishes in a low-event game. The Marlies struggled to generate scoring chances at even strength in the opening 20 minutes, with their best chances coming on the power play.
Logan Shaw and Joey Anderson both struck iron, while other opportunities for Mikhail Abramov and Nick Abruzzese went begging as Toronto failed to capitalize on two power plays.
The Senators then opened the scoring on the man advantage at the 13-minute mark when Angus Crookshank applied the perfect redirect in the slot on a slap pass from the point by Cole Cassels to put Belleville up 1-0.
In the final seconds of the period, Toronto scored a tying goal out of nowhere. From low on the right wall, Max Ellis flung the puck toward the net, where Joseph Blandisi — parked out in front — somehow managed to sneak an effort past Kevin Mandolese.
The middle frame was about as high-event as can be: Eight penalties, five goals, and big hits both ways.
The Senators regained the lead early in the middle frame shortly after a spell of four-on-four action. It was a poor effort from Toronto defensively; you could’ve thrown a blanket over all five Toronto skaters as Cassels was afforded all the time in the world to pick his spot from the slot.
Four minutes later, the Marlies‘ power play finally clicked to tie the game at 2-2. Toronto caught Belleville cheating for a shorthanded break and made them pay with a swift passing move initiated by Abruzzese. Anderson found Shaw, who finished off a tap-in.
The Marlies struck for a second time just over a minute later to take the lead for the first time.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev found the returning Pontus Holmberg walking down Main street after a Senators turnover at their own blue line, and Holmberg made no mistake with a confident finish to give Toronto a 3-2 lead at the midway mark.
The Marlies should have increased their lead, but they failed to take their chances and wasted another power play before the Senators tied the game at even strength. As a penalty to Holmberg expired, Jayce Hawryluk teed up Kyle Betts for a gimme in the crease.
Toronto restored the lead late in the period with a power-play tally. Der-Arguchintsev was able to draw a couple of Sens players toward him before sending a pass into the wheelhouse of Shaw positioned at the top of the left circle, where the Marlies captain powered a one-timer by Mandolese.
There was no pause in the fast and furious action to begin the third period.
A booming point shot from Shaw resulted in a rebound that Abruzzese reacted to first to finish off.
Toronto now held a 4-2 lead with 19:31 remaining and should have done a better job of managing the game. Instead, they almost conceded a goal inside 30 seconds. Erik Källgren was forced into his best save of the game on Jayce Hawryluk from point-blank range.
Källgren was finally beaten by Matthew Boucher, drawing the Senators within one with a little over 11 minutes remaining.
After a too-many-men penalty at the midway mark, Källgren robbed Jake Lucchini on the penalty kill, but Boucher netted his second of the game back at five-on-five with a shot through a screen from the top of the left circle to tie the game at 5-5.
There were opportunities for both teams to claim a regulation win in the final two minutes.
Noel Hoefenmayer was denied on a partial breakaway, while Anderson and Shaw also came close for Toronto. Källgren preserved at least a point with a fantastic double save to turn aside Scott Sabourin and Jonathan Aspirot after the former got in behind the Marlies’ defense.
The Marlies really should have won the game in overtime. Anderson missed the target on a partial breakaway but shortly afterward Holmberg drew a penalty. Toronto did everything but score as Mandolese robbed Anderson and Abruzzese.
The other way, Cole Reinhardt escaped on a breakaway but struck the post, and an infraction on the play from Der-Arguchintsev meant Toronto needed to kill a four-on-three penalty kill for the final minute of OT.
In the shootout, Källgren shut the door on all three Belleville attempts, and Shaw’s lone goal was all the Marlies needed to secure the extra point.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto’s power play struck twice and continues to produce at a ridiculous rate. It’s clicking at a league-leading 28.9% and has tallied 41 goals through the first half of the season.
– No place like the road? It feels that way for the Marlies, who have won eight straight games on their travels. Their road record is 14-3-1, which feels very reminiscent of the 2017-18 championship team that was dominant away from the Coliseum.
– Logan Shaw just continues to produce. Two goals and an assist take his season total to 45 points (15G/30A) in 37 games and leave him one point shy of equaling his career-high.
“[Shaw] is impressive,” said Greg Moore. “Any time a player is playing their old team, they burn to win and have that competitive edge. He stepped up in a big way on the power play. It was an incredible one-timer and a great seam pass by SDA. The puck was moving fast. That is a really hard shot. I don’t think fans would really understand how difficult that is to get off with the pace the puck was coming at. It was also wobbling a bit.”
– A nice re-introduction to the AHL for Pontus Holmberg, who was utilized on the second line and both special teams. He was certainly given the all-situations ice time that he was sent down to receive. He made a number of plays that showed his NHL quality. Holmberg scored once and could have racked up 3-4 points with better luck and finishing.
– A pair of assists for Noel Hoefenmayer takes him to 19 for the season and is just one shy of the 30-point mark through 34 games.
– Last but not least, Nick Abruzzese extended his point streak to five games (3G/6A) with a goal and an assist. It’s his third multi-point haul in that stretch, but it’s more than just the points. He’s starting to dominate shifts alongside two more experienced forwards, Shaw and Joey Anderson.
Abruzzese – Shaw – Anderson
Clifford – Holmberg – Der-Arguchintsev
Blandisi – Abramov – Johnstone
Chyzowski – Slaggert – Ellis
Král – Hoefenmayer
Rifai – Miller
Hellickson – Pietroniro