Playing in his second game back following a concussion, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev produced a game-winning performance, including the crucial go-ahead goal, to get the Toronto Marlies back on the winning track.

The stumbling power play also rediscovered its form, netting three times with debutant Topi Niemelä manning the first unit.

“We thought Niemelä had the skills and assets to be tested [on the top unit],” said head coach Greg Moore. “He did a great job. I really liked the looks he gave us on the power play.”

First Period

The opening 20 minutes were a low-event affair, with the Toronto Marlies holding the edge in zone time and possession.

The Marlies hadn’t scored first in a game since defeating Rochester on March 12. Not only did they open the scoring in this game, but Alex Steeves finally lifted the monkey off of his back in the process.

The sequence started with Ryan Tverberg, who was outstanding in this outing. The rookie has grown in confidence quickly since his debut and forced Antoine Bibeau into an unconventional save after splitting the Senators’ defense. 

From the resulting offensive-zone draw, Steeves was stopped from the slot, but he didn’t go chasing after the puck. Instead, he peeled off to the back post creating some space. Meanwhile, Noel Hoefenmayer showed composure in possession to fake a shot before delivering a precise pass to present Steeves with a tap-in.

The resulting celebration told its own story — a team ecstatic to finally open the scoring, and a goal-scorer in Steeves who broke a 16-game slump stretching back to the beginning of March.

After a tip play by Pontus Holmberg late in the period went narrowly wide, Toronto took a 1-0 lead into the intermission.

Second Period

Toronto began the middle frame with some momentum, killing a Marc Johnstone penalty assessed at the end of the first period before generating the next scoring chance.

Holmberg pivoted below the goal line, beating Jonathan Aspirot with consummate ease before teeing up Tverberg in the slot. The rookie didn’t quite get all of his one-time shot, but Bibeau made a solid save regardless.

The Marlies were quickly back on the penalty kill, but they almost doubled their lead while shorthanded. Logan Shaw pounced on a bouncing puck and was hauled down as he shot on the breakaway, but he was unable to convert on the resulting penalty shot.

Toronto continued to generate chances off the rush. Orrin Centazzo was sent clear by Jack Badini’s clever flipped pass only to be denied by a pad save by Bibeau.

It took 28 minutes for Toronto to receive their first power-play opportunity. Tverbeg had the lone scoring chance on a broken play for Toronto, while Belleville almost made an odd-man rush count. A fantastic back-checking effort by Der-Arguchintsev helped Niemelä clear the danger. 

The Marlies were seemingly in control until they conceded an avoidable goal at the 13-minute mark.

Mateo Pietroniro failed to deal with a dump-and-chase play started by Angus Crookshank. Zach Solow made matters worse by losing the battle for the loose puck to Graham McPhee, who sent Matthew Wedman in on goal. The latter had the time and space to cruise towards the net and produce a deft backhand finish into the roof of the net.

It was rough on Keith Petruzzelli, who stopped all 24 shots prior, including some key saves on the penalty kill.

Toronto began to fall apart after conceding, and Crookshank should have immediately put the Senators ahead but lacked a clinical touch in front goal.

The Marlies then fell behind with two minutes remaining in the period, giving up a shorthanded goal after a spell of four-on-four action. A series of bad decisions resulted in a wraparound tally for Rourke Chartier.

With 12 seconds left on the clock, the game’s turning point arrived on a Toronto power play.

The man advantage has been Toronto’s crutch this season, and after a quiet spell of late, it came up with a huge goal. From below the goal line, Zach O’Brien banked the puck in off a floundering Bibeau to tie the game at 2-2.

Third Period

Toronto’s ruthlessness was the difference between the teams in the third period.

Der-Arguchinstev jumped on a misplay by Lassi Thompson and bore down on goal before finishing with an emphatic wrist shot.

The home fans were cheering for a fourth goal inside nine minutes after the power play connected for a second time. Shaw found the roof of the net with a pinpoint shot from the top of the left circle.

It was now one-way traffic as the Marlies looked to cement the result with a fifth tally. 

Holmberg came close as he attempted to wrap the puck around Bibeau, while Der-Arguchintsev brought the best out of the Belleville netminder following a great move involving Shaw and Steeves.

Toronto’s fifth goal — and third on the power play — was created by Hoefenmayer. The defenseman went coast-to-cast, evading every Belleville penalty killer (albeit with the aid of a fortunate bounce). Solow was the beneficiary of Hoefenmayer’s work and only had to hit the net to score his second goal.

If anyone deserved a goal in this game it was Pontus Holmberg, who on another given night could have scored a hat-trick. There was justice to the Swede wrapping up the game with an empty-net marker as the Marlies cruised to a 6-2 win.

A victory that secured Toronto their seventh North Division title in franchise history.

Post Game Notes

– The Marlies halted their losing streak at seven games, two short of the franchise record.

– With three goals on four opportunities, the power play was really sharp, with multiple players willing to shoot rather than the overreliance on Logan Shaw and Alex Steeves in past games. 

– It wasn’t only the offensive creativity of Semyon Der-Arguchintsev that made a difference but also his perseverance and work ethic over 200 feet. SDA finished up with a three-point haul (1G/2A).

– Despite an elongated scoring slump, Alex Steeves has continued to put in consistently high-level performances.  Hopefully, the 18th goal of the season will provide a shot in the arm confidence-wise for the winger.

– I could not have been more impressed by Topi Niemelä in his debut. He was thrown immediately into action without a single practice, but he showed a great deal of poise in possession and moved the puck efficiently.

One such pass sent Centazzo away down the left before Niemelä joined the play, receiving the puck back and getting a shot off from the hash marks. He was also very composed on the power play, where he was afforded plenty of time on the first unit. Niemelä was defensively solid and recorded a secondary assist on Shaw’s goal.

“He looked confident and didn’t look nervous at all,” said Moore. “He went out, played his game, and played true to who he is. He was really good with the puck. He is a great skater. He was able to get to the open ice and attack the middle of the rink.

“His smarts and how he finds guys at the right time — beating F1 through the middle of the rink and passing at the right time — improves the condition of the puck for the next player. It is really impressive how he thinks the game.”

– After a hot start to the season, Noel Hoefenmayer cooled off to the point where he recorded just two points in his last 15 games. The defenseman registered three assists in this game, including a highlight-reel rush on Zach Solow’s goal. Hoefenmayer was confident and willing to join the rush at every opportunity.

– After a promising performance, Ryan Tverberg left the game with an upper-body injury.

– Sunday’s lines:

Steeves – Shaw – Der-Arguchintsev
Slaggert – Johnstone – O’Brien
Solow – Holmberg – Tverberg
Centazzo – Badini – Chyzowski

Dahlström – Benn
Rifai – Niemelä
Pietroniro – Hoefenmayer


Post-Game Media Availability: Shaw, Niemelä & Moore

Game Highlights: Marlies 6 vs. Senators 2