A four-goal outburst in the middle frame not only secured a victory for the Toronto Marlies over Belleville on Sunday but also made the group feel a whole lot better about themselves with the playoffs 10 days away.
After a penalty-ridden opening frame, the Marlies found their scoring touch to end the regular season on a high note and give the home fans something to cheer about on Fan Appreciation Night.
“We definitely needed it,” said Greg Moore of the 7-2 victory. “I was proud of the guys and how they attacked this game by playing the right way. It was one of our better games in a while where we consistently came out and were physical and hard to play against.”
The officials had a tough job keeping the peace in the opening frame between two teams who simply do not like one another. 10 minor penalties and three 10-minute misconducts were handed out in a first period that took around 50 minutes to complete.
The result might have been different if Belleville seized on an early defensive breakdown. John Quenneville got a shot away during a 2-on-1 rush, but Erik Källgren got just enough of the puck to turn it aside.
Toronto’s wasteful power play held them back even when presented with a two-man advantage for 1:37. Nick Abruzzese should have scored on a backdoor feed but failed to beat Mads Sogaard, who made a solid pad save.
Jake Lucchini roofed a shot high into the glass on a shorthanded rush as the Marlies rode their luck at the other end of the ice.
The turning point for Toronto arrived with 11 seconds remaining when Joseph Blandisi rifled home a one-time effort from the slot after a below-the-goal line pass by Logan Shaw.
The relief was palpable from Blandisi, his teammates, and the home crowd.
The parade to the penalty box continued in the middle frame.
Toronto was unable to connect on an early power play and then found themselves behind the eight-ball after Kyle Clifford was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging.
Marc Johnstone drew a penalty of his own to negate two minutes of the five, and Toronto’s penalty kill stood firm to keep the Senators at bay.
The Toronto penalty kill then broke the game open at the nine-minute mark as the Marlies netted two short-handed goals in 50 seconds.
Shaw sent Johnstone away, and the speedy forward wasn’t going to be caught as he sent the puck between the legs of Sogaard.
Johnstone turned provider, creating a 2-on-1 break with William Villeneuve leading the charge. The defenseman’s chipped pass was brilliantly corralled by Blandisi, who took the puck from his backhand to forehand in one move to score a highlight-reel goal.
Källgren had mostly been watching the show in front of him, but he needed to be alert with seven minutes remaining. On an odd-man rush for Belleville, the Swedish netminder made an outstanding save sliding to his right.
The Marlies then made it 4-0 after Shaw seized on a Belleville turnover and waited out the last Senators defender before delivering a delightful pass to Alex Steeves for a tap-in.
Nick Abruzzese struck to give Toronto a commanding 5-0 lead with just 35 minutes played. By this stage, Sogaard seemingly had enough and appeared to pull himself from the game, with Leevi Meriläinen taking over the Belleville crease.
The Marlies were yet to record a shutout through 71 games and threw away the opportunity to record a duck egg in the final regular-season game just 20 seconds into the final frame.
Chartier was gifted a chance to put Belleville on the board, netting his 20th of the season.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev responded at the two-minute mark with possibly the goal of the game. On the delayed penalty, SDA went coast-to-coast, dangling by Jorian Donovan in the neutral zone. Normally a passer, the diminutive forward cleverly used a trailing defenseman as a screen before placing a fantastic wrist shot high into the roof of the Senators’ net.
The Marlies gave up a second goal during four-on-four action but had the last say with a single second remaining. Radim Zohrona scored with an individual effort to put the wrap on a 7-2 victory that put a smile back on the Marlies’ faces.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies finished the regular season with a record of 42-24-6. 90 points placed them first in the North Division, third in the East, and sixth in the league despite losing 11 of their last 13 games.
Due to the extended playoff format, the Marlies now face a wait of 10 days before beginning post-season action on April 27. Toronto will play the winner of a three-game series between Utica and Laval.
– As I mentioned in the last recap, Joseph Blandisi is working his way back to form after his injury. Two goals give him 15 for the season in 61 games, a career-high for a forward who will provide much-needed veteran experience, penalty killing, and added scoring depth in the playoffs.
“He is a personality, a voice, and an energy that we were missing,” said Moore. “He demonstrates that on the ice with how passionate and competitive he is. He gets under the skin of other opponents. He is hard to play against, and he can make some really good plays with the puck as we saw with his goal.”
– For the second time in his rookie year, William Villeneuve registered three assists in a single game. When it clicks for him offensively, Villeneuve is really dangerous joining the rush and pinching into the play. 25 points — including three goals — in 54 games is a nice return from a rookie rearguard.
– There has been no player more frustrated by Toronto’s play of late than their captain. Logan Shaw stepped up to the plate in this game, providing the primary assists on goals one, two, and four. He finished the regular season with a career-high in assists (48) and points (69).
“Any time you have your hardest worker, your smartest player, your most character person also go out there and put the puck in the net and lead offensively, that is why [Shaw] is as good as he is and why we have had such a successful season as well,” said Moore.
– Thank you for following along during the regular season. The coverage won’t stop here! I intend to produce some content before playoff action commences.
– Sunday’s lines:
Abruzzese- Shaw – Blandisi
Clifford – Holmberg – Johnstone
Zohorna – Der-Arguchintsev – Steeves
Slaggert – Cruikshank – Tverberg
Benn – Niemelä
Rifai – Dahlström
Pietroniro – Villeneueve