This was a frustrating letdown for the Toronto Marlies on Friday after such a strong performance against Utica on Wednesday.
The initial promise of the first period slipped away, and ultimately, the Marlies deserved the 6-2 beatdown.
“Things can go sideways on you in a hurry, and if you don’t find a way to recapture it quickly, it can get ugly,” said Greg Moore. “We lacked a response.”
The Marlies should have built a healthy lead through 20 minutes.
Two chances for Alex Steeves went begging, and Toronto wasted the game’s first power play, but they did open scoring just inside the seven-minute mark. The work of Max Ellis — a sparkplug when he’s inserted into the lineup — led to an offensive-zone takeaway. Marshall Rifai’s initial shot was blocked, but Ellis was on hand to slot home the rebound.
Rochester was immediately given a golden opportunity to respond with Mikko Kokkonen’s double minor for high-sticking. A lone rush by Bobby McMann was the main action through the first half of the penalty as Toronto’s penalty killers looked reasonably comfortable.
It came as a surprise, then, when the Marlies‘ penalty kill structure suddenly fell apart, allowing Lukas Rousek to tee up Brett Murray for a tap-in.
The Marlies responded with a power play tally of their own after consecutive penalties left Rochester facing a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes. A shot from Adam Gaudette took the slightest of deflections off of McMann in front, giving goaltender Michael Houser no chance.
Toronto almost gave the Amerks the goal back on the remainder of the man advantage after a mistake from Noel Hoefenmayer allowed Brandon Biro to escape on a breakaway, but Erik Källgren came to the rescue with his best save of the period.
Rochester hit back with a tying goal with just nine seconds remaining in the frame. Källgren came out to play the puck and received no communication that there was pressure incoming over his shoulder, resulting in a turnover. The Amerks worked the puck around the zone as Toronto ran around before a perfectly-placed shot from Vinnie Hinostroza found the far corner of the net.
The Marlies came close to re-establishing their lead just 31 seconds into the middle frame when McMann thought he scored, but his goal was waived off after seemingly scrambling home his own rebound.
Toronto’s sloppy play in possession almost cost them at the five-minute mark. Rousek was gifted a breakaway, leading Gaudette to haul down the Amerks forward. On the resulting penalty shot, Källgren denied the five-hole effort.
The game ultimately turned on two calls by the officials that left much to be desired. With both teams battling for possession behind Toronto’s net, an official decided to entangle himself in the play, resulting in a deflection that created two scoring chances in the slot.
Källgren was able to come up with a pair of fantastic saves, but the Marlies took a penalty on the play, and Rochester scored on the ensuing power play. Sean Malone redirected a shot from Ethan Prow to give Rochester a 3-2 lead.
Houser came up with some of his best saves of the game to deny Toronto a second power-play goal before the turning point of the game arrived shortly afterward.
A shot from Mikhail Abramov made it through Houser, and the puck lay in the blue paint behind the goaltender. The now-former Marlies forward jumped in and scored a legitimate goal, after which he was mauled by several Rochester players.
The play apparently had been whistled dead despite there being no official in a position to know whether the netminder covered the puck.
McMann was denied in tight on the same power play, which ended without a tying goal.
Back at five on five, the Amerks doubled their lead. A point shot from Chase Priskie found the net through a partial screen, although it’s one that Källgren would likely want back.
The Amerks struck for a second time inside three minutes after a poor dump and change allowed Houser to rush out of his net and spring a counterattack attack that resulted in a breakaway goal for Kulich.
Greg Moore pulled Källgren after the fifth goal, but it was more of a reflection of the team’s play in front of him than the goaltender’s performance.
A goal from Lawrence Pilut, 63 seconds into the third period, rendered the remainder of the game a non-event, with the Amerks now ahead 6-2.
Abramov had a trio of scoring chances, but he failed to take advantage of any before a Marlies power play was easily dealt with by Rochester.
Post Game Notes
– Bobby McMann has five goals in his last five games, and if we date it back further, it’s now eight goals in as many games. With 13 goals in 24 games, McMann has a chance of passing the 24-goal total from his rookie campaign.
– It’s a mystery as to why Max Ellis does not receive more opportunities in the lineup (perhaps he will after the blockbuster trade by the parent club?) The goal was his fifth of the season and 14th point in 33 games — a pretty good production rate considering he’s in and out of the lineup with bottom-six usage.
– A primary assist on the second goal was Adam Gaudette’s final point for the Toronto Marlies. His departure will leave a hole in the line-up as Gaudette takes his team-leading 20 goals and 34 points to the Springfield Thunderbirds.
– Friday’s lines:
McMann – Shaw – Abruzzese
Hunt – Blandisi – Steeves
Clifford – Abramov – Gaudette
Slaggert – Johnstone – Ellis
Rifai – Miller
Hoefenmayer – Villeneuve
Kokkonen – Pietroniro