The Toronto Marlies appeared to be jetlagged after their travel out west.
The Marlies produced a feeble performance — lacking in intensity and execution — as their eight-game winning streak and goaltender Joseph Woll’s 11-game winning streak came to an end in Abbotsford.
“We certainly weren’t playing at their pace for the majority of the game,” said Greg Moore.
As he has done on numerous occasions this season, Joseph Woll came up with another stellar performance in the opening frame to keep the Marlies in the game. It’s no exaggeration to suggest the game should have been over as a contest after 20 minutes.
Abbotsford pulled the Marlies apart with just 73 seconds on the clock following a giveaway, but Woll robbed Nils Åman from close range. Woll made an even better save on Christian Wolanin before Toronto survived a mad scramble in the crease, with the puck at one point teetering on top of the net.
The Marlies killed two penalties but could not keep the Canucks off the board back at even strength. Backing up into the neutral zone, William Villeneuve twice swatted and missed at a bouncing puck, allowing Nils Höglander in behind him for a breakaway goal.
Toronto’s offensive moments were few and far between, with only Graham Slaggert forcing Arturs Šilovs into anything resembling a save of note.
At the other end, Woll needed to make three more outstanding saves to keep the Marlies within a goal after 20 minutes.
Starting the middle frame on the penalty kill, the Marlies managed to release Nick Abruzzese from the box without sustaining further damage.
There was no momentum gained from the kill, though, as Abbotsford attacked in waves and Toronto came up with no answer for their incessant puck forecheck and offensive-zone pressure. The Marlies were struggling to string one or two passes together to exit the zone, let alone cross the red line with possession.
The Marlies’ best chance of the period — and probably the game — fell to Dryden Hunt during a shortened power play. From the middle of the slot, he should have buried a fantastic scoring opportunity, but he didn’t appear to get everything on his shot.
Hunt left the game for a short time following a collision with Šilovs behind the goal line. There was no malice involved; the goaltender took a step toward the Toronto forward before paying the puck, which resulted in an unavoidable clash of bodies.
It was a shooting gallery afterward as Abbotsford peppered the Toronto net, but Woll turned aside all 19 shots he faced in the middle frame. Among a handful of top-notch saves was an act of larceny to deny Tristen Neilson during a stretch in which the Canucks were toying with the Marlies at five-on-five.
The Marlies finished the period as they started — on the penalty kill. They shouldn’t have been, however, as Hunt was tripped after stealing possession from Šilovs. There was no call on the play, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not as if Toronto earned much in the way of calls.
Toronto killed off consecutive penalties to begin the third period, and Woll turned aside all five shots he faced in the opening nine minutes, the last of which was another big save after a mistake by Noel Hoefenmayer resulted in a breakaway for Danila Klimovich.
Still only trailing 1-0 despite being clearly second-best in the game, the Marlies had the chance to level the score on their first full two-minute power play with 10:21 remaining. The following two minutes perfectly encapsulated their entire performance as the Marlies were outworked and failed to register a shot on net.
The closest Toronto came to tying the game came on a chance with 6:30 remaining. Kokkonen — one of few bright spots offensively — opened some space for himself and fired a hard shot that produced a rebound in the slot, where Adam Gaudette was first to the loose puck but sent his effort wide of the net.
With a little under five minutes left on the clock, the dam was broken and the contest was officially over. Unfortunately, the play leading to Abbotsford’s second goal started with a mistake by Woll, although he didn’t receive much help from his teammates.
The goaltender misplayed the puck behind his net, and after the danger dissipated for a couple of seconds, the Marlies failed to clear the puck and Höglander sniped his second of the game.
Two became three just 62 seconds later. With Toronto running around like headless chickens in the defensive zone, Phil Di Giuseppe was alone in the slot and picked his spot in the bottom-left corner of the net.
An empty-net goal for Justin Dowling made it 4-0, although it’s not clear why Greg Moore even bothered pulling the netminder at that stage.
It was a fun ride winning 10 on the road and going unbeaten for over three weeks to start 2023, but it had to come to an end at some point. As with all defeats of this nature over the course of a long season, the response is most important.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies were outshot 45-12 and shut out for the first time this season. The penalty kill was one bright spot with a perfect seven-for-seven night.
– Joseph Woll’s winning streak came to a halt at 11, but it’s not as if he had any help from the team in front of him. Woll turned aside 41 of 44 shots and singlehandedly kept the Marlies in the game for 55 minutes.
– It was an interesting Marlies debut for Dryden Hunt, who didn’t endear himself to the home fans after the collision with Arturs Šilovs and then appeared to be injured. He was no better or worse than the rest of the forward group in this game.
“[Hunt] competed really hard,” said Moore. “He had a couple of good looks. You can tell he can really shoot the puck. For his first game with us, it was a good effort and a good showing. Like any player, it might take some time to get settled.”
– Tuesday’s lines:
Abruzzese – Shaw – Hunt
Clifford – Der-Arguchintsev – Gaudette
Blandisi – Abramov – Steeves
Chyzowski – Slaggert – Johnstone
Hoefenmayer – Villeneuve
Rifai – Miller
Hellickson – Kokkonen