This performance from the Toronto Marlies had all the hallmarks of the last game of a long road trip.
While they remained competitive in the game thanks to stellar goaltending from Erik Källgren and some good fortune, the Marlies were second-best at five-on-five and lost the special teams battle en route to a 3-2 loss to Manitoba on Sunday.
With the loss, the Marlies finished a successful Boat Show road trip with a 6-2-0 record, improving their overall road record to a league-best 18-5-1.
While the Marlies got off a sloppy start, the Moose came out with revenge for Friday night’s loss on their minds. As early as the second minute, Declan Chisholm forced an excellent save out of Erik Källgren from the slot.
Toronto had a chance to turn the tide with a power play, but the lack of pace and urgency at even strength carried over onto the man advantage.
The Moose deservedly opened the scoring at the six-minute mark when Cole Maier was denied in tight by Källgren and collected his own rebound. Maier rounded the net and scored far side on a wraparound attempt with four Marlies skaters standing around watching.
It was one-way traffic as Manitoba attempted to extend its lead with the momentum of a raucous crowd behind them. A combination of poor finishing from the Moose, solid goaltending from Källgren, and a little puck luck kept the Marlies within one.
A Kristian Reichel effort that struck the post was as close as Manitoba came to finding a second. The Marlies, who wasted a second power-play opportunity late in the period, could consider themselves fortunate to trail only 1-0 through 20 minutes.
The Marlies created just one real scoring chance of note in the middle frame on an early power play. Adam Gaudette was unfortunate to strike the post with Oskari Salminen beaten.
Toronto somehow escaped the middle frame without conceding despite Manitoba throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at them. Källgren made two good saves on Dominic Toninato and Maier to keep Toronto within striking distance, and the Moose hit the post twice.
A long-range effort was tipped onto the post and a blistering shot from Leon Gawanke struck the crossbar during a spell of four-on-four action that felt more like a Manitoba power play.
A strong penalty-killing effort by the Marlies late in the period kept it at a one-goal game heading into the final frame.
The Marlies should have fallen further behind just 1:10 into the third period when a mistake from Matt Helickson resulted in a great scoring chance for Jansen Harkins. He wasn’t credited with a save on the scoresheet, but it appeared Källgren got a slight piece of the shot.
Toronto broke the other way and scored eight seconds later when Joseph Blandisi and Gaudette combined to tee up Kyle Clifford for a backdoor tap-in.
Thoroughly outplayed to this point in the game, the Marlies now had the opportunity to take something from the game.
Källgren didn’t face a ton of rubber for the rest of the game, but he continued to make key saves, including a high-danger chance for Alex Limoges.
Toronto’s special teams have bailed them out on several times this season, but they let them down in this game. The power play failed to convert for a fourth time before Manitoba found a go-ahead goal on their third man advantage of the game.
At every possible opportunity on the power play, the Moose try to set up Gawanke for a one-timer, and the Marlies were sagging too far off of him as he fired home from the top of the right circle.
The main/only positive in this game for the Marlies is that they did not go away quietly. Toronto played their best hockey of the game with six minutes remaining.
Alex Steeves was denied on a breakaway as the Marlies pushed hard for an equalizer, but their momentum was halted by off-setting penalties.
As soon as those penalties expired, Källgren was pulled for the extra attacker, but Toronto failed to generate any chances offensively before Källgren needed to return to the net for a faceoff and the Moose sealed the outcome in the final minute.
With 41 seconds left on the clock, a misplay from Noel Hoefenmayer below the goal line gifted Manitoba an insurance marker via Toninato, who collected the turnover and finished from the slot.
That mistake looked even more costly when Alex Steeves scored with 16 seconds remaining to make it a 3-2 final.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto finished the month of January with an outstanding record of 12-2-0. It was an incredible effort considering the heavy schedule, travel, and the absence of key players such as Joey Anderson, Bobby McMann, Filip Kral, and Mac Hollowell.
– I mentioned it in the last recap, but the faltering power play has to be of some concern and will surely be worked on this week in practice. It went zero for four in this game and finished the road trip at zero for 15.
– With an assist on the second goal, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev set a new single-season career high in points. His 33 points (9G/24A) in 40 games best his point total set in 51 games last season.
– Logan Shaw is now one point shy of the 50 mark with a primary assist on the second goal. He led all skaters with six shots and was responsible for 25% of the Marlies’ shots on goal.
– The raw statistics of this outing (three goals allowed on nineteen shots) do not shine favourably on Erik Källgren, but they are a timely reminder that boxscore scouting in the AHL is a fool’s errand. He made a handful of fantastic saves on grade-A scoring chances for Manitoba and deserved a better fate.
– Sunday’s lines:
Abruzzese – Shaw – Hunt
Clifford – Blandisi – Gaudette
Steeves – Der-Arguchintsev – Ellis
Chyzowski – Abramov – Johnstone
Rifai – Miller
Pietroniro – Hoefenmayer
Hellickson – Villeneuve