In a largely low-event game, the Toronto Marlies’ inability to turn their limited scoring chances into goals resulted in a return to the loss column.
The Marlies were a little fortunate to escape the first frame unscathed. They killed penalties at either end of the period and leaned on Keith Petruzzelli to pull off some good saves, the best of which denied Jonny Brodzinski late in the period.
Hartford also struck the post through Turner Elson following a long stretch pass by Louis Domingue that created an odd-man rush.
Toronto’s offensive moments were fleeting. A turnover presented Zach O’Brien with a chance in the right circle, but Domingue made a sharp save, even if he was fortunate with the rebound that initially eluded him.
Later in the period, Logan Shaw would have been rueing his decision to pass on an odd-man rush. In trying to set up Alex Steeves, Shaw allowed the lone Hartford player back to make a key interception when taking a shot was the percentage play.
An early power play resulted in chances for both teams.
Topi Niemelä’s point shot resulted in a midair rebound that Marc Johnstone was unable to prod home with the goal at his mercy. At the other end, Hartford created a 2-on-1 break, but Petruzzelli made another sharp save to turn aside Will Cuylle.
The Marlies‘ penalty kill put in some stellar work in this outing, generating some scoring chances in the process. Holmberg forced Domingue into a pad save that resulted in a huge rebound that fell Hartford’s way. Shaw then attempted to tee up the former with a backdoor feed through the slot but missed by inches.
Kyle Clifford created the lone scoring chance of note at five-on-five in the final six minutes. On a broken play, the veteran winger was afforded space down the left wall and made a power move toward the net. The finish failed to match the lead-up play, although Toronto drew a penalty on the play.
The power play created one key opportunity, but O’Brien was robbed from the slot as Domnigue continued to keep the Marlies at bay.
Petruzzelli was a passenger for the first 10 minutes of the middle frame, but he finished it by making two big saves on Anton Blidh and Tanner Fritz in the final 70 seconds to ensure the score remained deadlocked at 0-0.
The teams combined for 30 shots in the final frame, with Toronto arguably generating the better looks. The Marlies began strongly and deserved to take the lead.
Clifford rang a shot off the iron, and Carl Dahlström felled a Hartford defenseman with a shot destined for the far corner of the net.
Consecutive penalties took the sting out of Toronto, although they created a scoring chance on the second penalty kill.
Noel Hoefenmayer put in a playoff-worthy shift, not only making a desperate diving clearing attempt to exit the zone but combining with Holmberg to create a shot from the slot.
William Villeneuve played an active game offensively, jumping up into the play at every opportunity. A solo rush from the rookie defenseman split the Hartford defense, but his backhand shot was easily dealt with by Domngiue.
It was a frustrating outing for Toronto’s captain, who appeared to have the game on his stick with two minutes remaining. Somehow Shaw couldn’t finish from the blue paint, and the Marlies spent the next 45 seconds inside their own end.
After failing to clear the zone on two occasions, Toronto paid the price as Blidh slid the puck in behind Petruzzelli on the rebound.
Not only were Toronto and Petruzzelli denied a first shutout of the season, but with just 72 seconds remaining, a heartbreaking defeat seemed inevitable.
A certain young Finnish defenseman had other ideas. Niemelä showed a great deal of composure from the point, faking a one-time shot to create himself the space to send a far-side shot through traffic and by Domingue.
A first AHL goal with 13 seconds remaining to tie the game at 1-1? Not bad. Not bad at all.
The extra frame wasn’t much to write home about as far as the Marlies were concerned.
Villeneuve would’ve been disappointed in his effort on the play that resulted in Jake Leschyshyn scoring the winning goal.
That shouldn’t detract from an above-average road performance that would have been a deserved victory if not for the lack of a killer touch in front of the net.
Post Game Notes
– In a strangely officiated game, Toronto’s penalty kill was a perfect five for five. The power play was unable to connect on two attempts and generated just a pair of scoring chances.
– Keith Petruzzelli turned aside 35 of 37 shots and is making a strong case for playoff starts if Joseph Woll remains in the NHL.
– He may have thrown the monkey off his back in the last game, but Alex Steeves remains pretty much luckless in front of goal. He led Toronto with five shots, and surely the tide will turn for him soon — hopefully in time for the postseason.
– Watching Topi Niemelä is a ton of fun. His almost seamless transition to the AHL in two games reminds me of Rasmus Sandin’s. He performs with a confidence that is impressive, and he has added a much-needed offensive dimension to Toronto’s blue line. The best compliment I can pay him is that I recommend buying a ticket to watch him at Coca-Cola Coliseum.
– Signed to a PTO, Todd Skirving made his AHL debut in this game. The 30-year-old is enjoying a career high-season with Newfoundland in every statistic (30G/27A/57P). With his parents in attendance, Skirving did not let himself or the team down with a solid outing on the fourth line. The Thunder Bay native is a much-loved and respected member of the Newfoundland community.
– Wednesday’s lines:
Steeves – Shaw – Der-Arguchintsev
Zohorna – Holmberg – O’Brien
Clifford – Slaggert – Johnstone
Chyzowski – Skirving – Solow
Dahlström – Benn
Rifai – Niemelä
Hoefenmayer – Villeneuve