With more clinical finishing around the net, the Toronto Marlies would have coasted to a regulation victory against a Hartford team that conceded 18 goals in their previous three games.
Instead, the Wolf Pack hung around and made it interesting right to the end, but Toronto improved their overtime record to 5-2 for the season. Their magic number to make the playoffs is now just six points.
Joseph Woll was merely an interested spectator during the opening frame as Hartford recorded just five shots on goal, none of which were overly threatening. The Marlies created far more scoring opportunities, but the final pass or shot lacked the cutting edge.
A wraparound attempt by Nick Abruzzese drifted wide of the far post, while a short-side effort by Alex Steeves cannoned off the crossbar. After Joseph Blandisi teed up Graham Slaggert following a strong drive to the net, the latter looked set to score, but he was hooked as he attempted to slide the puck past Louis Domingue.
The Marlies‘ power play elapsed without incident, but Toronto continued to dominate back at five-on-five.
Kyle Clifford rang a shot off the iron following a nice piece of play from Zach Solow on the right wall. Abruzzese then created an odd-man break for Toronto with a smart outlet pass, but Logan Shaw fired his shot high over the net.
Alex Steeves was denied on three separate occasions by Domingue, who produced his best save of the period on Abruzzese during a second power-play opportunity for the Marlies.
Having survived a first-period barrage, Hartford rode their luck in the opening minute of the middle frame. After Shaw failed to bury two early scoring chances, the Wolf Pack grew into the period and the game.
As Hartford began to threaten offensively, Woll needed to be alert on chances for Matthew Robertson, Jake Leschyshyn, and Will Cuylle.
The deadlock was broken in the final five minutes of the period when a speculative shot from the right circle by Will Lockwood appeared to handcuff Woll. The Marlies goaltender fumbled the high shot, and the puck appeared to roll into the net off of his shoulder and back.
The Marlies responded positively to falling behind, drawing a penalty and generating five high-danger scoring chances to finish the period.
It was a simple play that led to the tying goal. Radim Zohorna won a draw in the left circle back to Max Ellis, who off-loaded possession to William Villeneuve. The defenseman walked the blue line before sending a high shot on goal, and Zohorna went to the right spot on the ice to swat home the midair rebound.
The final frame was a tight-checking affair with scoring chances at a premium.
An exasperated Steeves was robbed from the high slot at the two-minute mark as Domnigue continued to excel in the Hartford net.
Toronto was fortunate not to trail for a second time four minutes later. On a scrambly play, Turner Elson hit the post as Woll lay prone in the crease during a melee in front of the Toronto goal.
Hartford should have taken the lead with a little over nine minutes remaining when Jake Leschyshyn was stonewalled from point-blank range by Woll. The forward had an even better scoring chance on the same shift following a turnover, but Leschyshyn whiffed on the one-time effort.
The Marlies scored seconds later. From the top of the left circle, Clifford tried his luck with a shot that somehow weaved its way through a maze of bodies in front.
Marc Johnstone came agonizingly close to making it 3-1 from the restart of play, but Domingue came up with another good save for Hartford. Toronto seemingly looked in control en route to two points in regulation until some dubious decision-making in the final moments.
With the Hartford net empty, Steeves’ attempt at a chip pass to Holmberg was intercepted by the lone Wolf Pack player back. Seconds later, Holmberg had an even better chance to end the game with an empty netter, but his effort hit the post.
The Marlies then got somewhat caught above the puck and were left floundering in the defensive zone. Adam Clendening slapped a pass toward the blue paint, where Leschyshyn got a piece of the puck to send it by Woll and force overtime.
Shaw almost won the game inside the first 30 seconds, but Domingue came to Hartford’s rescue for the umpteenth time.
Domginue proceeded to pull off an even better save on Filip Král before denying Noel Hoefenmayer and Max Ellis as the Marlies utterly dominated at three-on-three.
Toronto finally earned the extra point with another goal scored off of a faceoff. Holmberg won the draw back to Villeneuve and Shaw, who was parked on the far left of the blue line. Toronto’s captain held off the check of Lockwood as he surged down the middle of the ice and delivered a pinpoint finish into the far top corner.
Post Game Notes
– After just one point in his previous eight games, William Villeneuve recorded a career-high three-point game (3A). He became the second Toronto defenseman (joining Noel Hofenmayer) to reach the 20-point mark (2G/18A in 45 GP) this season.
“[Villeneuve] is getting more comfortable with the league, the pace, and being a better defender throughout the season,” said Greg Moore. “Now that he is getting more comfortable with it all, when he gets the opportunity with the puck on his stick, he has tons of confidence to make plays, make other players better, and create offense.”
– Logan Shaw snapped an eight-game scoring slump with the game-winner. The captain leads Toronto with two overtime goals.
– Switched to the center position, Radim Zohorna looked very comfortable in his home debut. There are still more levels and gears for him to shift through, but the Marlies are already benefitting from his net-front presence.
“You could tell [Zohorna] looked more comfortable at the center position,” said Moore. “It always takes time to adjust when you get traded with a quick turnaround. There is a learning process of getting comfortable being in the room and building relationships with his teammates. He has done a great job of that. I thought it was a good turning point for him”
– Alex Steeves is completely snakebitten having now gone 12 games with a goal. He led all skaters with six shots and did everything but score. He might be frustrated internally, but he continues to get to the high-danger scoring areas, which is a very good sign.
– For once, Joseph Woll wasn’t the hero for the Marlies. He would certainly want the first goal back, but otherwise, he produced a solid performance. After bailing the team out on numerous occasions this season, the team owed him one.
“Woller would like to have that one back, but for how much he has done for us and how much he has bailed out us this year, it was nice to reward him and for the players to come back and get this one for him,” said Moore.
– Saturday’s lines:
Abruzzese – Holmberg – Shaw
McMann – Zohorna – Johnstone
Clifford – Blandisi – Solow
Slaggert – Ellis
Rifai – Benn
Hoefenmayer – Miller
Král – Villeneuve