Sticking to the game plan has often been a tough assignment for this young Marlies team this season.
When things haven’t gone their way, individuals have taken it upon themselves to try and make solo plays, much to the annoyance of Sheldon Keefe.
Toronto were being frustrated and slightly stifled by the lowly ranked but highly determined Manitoba Moose at Ricoh Coliseum. Clogging up the neutral zone and relying on some very good goaltending from Eric Comrie, Manitoba had kept their hosts off the scoreboard despite trailing 25-15 on the shot clock.
The visitors began the final frame with a power play, looking to snatch a goal they could hold onto.
Making his Marlies debut between the pipes, Rob Madore made the two top required of him, one which was a fine snapshot from J.C Lipon, to keep the Moose off the board.
As Toronto kept the pressure on, they were finally rewarded with the opening goal but not before enduring more frustrating. Leipsic showed some speed and swung out from behind the right side of the net but Comrie clung onto the effort with traffic in front of him.
Leivo was doing as much as anyone to try and orchestrate the opening marker and from the right side his perfectly weighted pass-come-shot toward the net was tipped by Stuart Percy of all people driving the net but once again Comrie was there to deny Toronto and held onto the puck.
From the following face-off it was the simplest of plays that finally broke the stalemate.
Nylander winning the face-off and Brennan sending it back up the wall to Leivo on the blue line.
Shifting to his left, Leivo didn’t try to blast his effort on net but the low effort brought a pad save from Comrie and Richard Panik was on handle to stuff home the rebound to the relief of everyone not associated with the visitors.
To Manitoba’s credit they responded by drawing a power play and thought they had scored halfway through the man advantage. A mad scramble unfolded in Madore’s crease, with the goaltender making what looked like a save but he had no idea where the puck was, as sticks and bodies flew everywhere. When the play was eventually whistled down, the officials failed to ask for a replay despite Manitoba protestations and Toronto survived the penalty kill.
Madore’s biggest moment of the game came with nine minutes remaining in the third period.
It looked nailed on that Scott Kosmachuk was going to score on a lovely feed into the slot but after initially going the wrong way, Madore managed to slide back towards his right, making a fine toe save, his best of the evening
Less than two minutes later and we almost witnessed another piece of genius from William Nylander.
Just a few feet across the blue line, Nylander released an absolute howitzer of a shot with little back-lift, that struck the crossbar, flying up into the air before bouncing off the top of the net to safety.
The second goal wasn’t long in coming however. Kapanen showing patience with the puck and waited for Hyman who had stormed from the bench into the play with intent. A perfect pass from one rookie to another and Hyman sniped home his third goal of the season.
Two debut shutouts on consecutive nights? That was obviously too much to hope for as Madore would be denied a perfect game. Brassard throwing the puck into the blue paint from below the goal line and Manitoba out-worked their hosts in front of the net with captain John Albert applying the finishing touch.
With 3:41 still left to play there was work to be done and Manitoba’s struggling offense tried it’s best to make thing tough for the Marlies. Pulling Comrie from net for the extra attacker with over a minute to play failed to bring the reward the visitors were looking for and it was Stuart Percy who tallied the insurance marker, finding the centre of the vacant goal to secure a 3-1 victory.
The opening frame was notable for Toronto’s lack of luck. Brennan hit the post as he tried to go top shelve, short side on a beaten Eric Comrie just a minute in. Panik then contrived to miss the net on a rebound effort from another Brennan shot. Toronto’s first penalty kill of the game almost saw them tally shorthanded. Clune combing with Gauthier but the rookie saw his effort turned aside by the edge of Comrie’s blocker. Manitoba almost score against the run of play as former Marlies defenseman Jay Harrison unloaded a booming shot that Madore did well to stop with his left pad after a deflection in front.
Toronto held the visitors to just six shots in the second period but again failed to turn possession and zone dominance into an advantage on the scoreboard.
Gauthier the first to really test Comrie at the eight minute marker, ripping a shot from the high slot.
Nylander would contrive to miss an open net on his own rebound when it looked easier to score.
Leipsic then did something similar and Findlay fired just wide. Captain Campbell was the next to try his luck but his blast produced a stop from Comrie with nobody wearing white able to capitalise on the rebound. Late on it was Nylander again who was causing Manitoba problems but his excellent feed across the crease somehow managed to evade everyone driving the net. Once again Toronto’s penalty kill looked a threat offensively. Gauthier intercepting a pass and banking it off the boards past his man, whereupon Clune take the play forward. Clune tried to find Gauthier driving to the net but the rookie’s stick was lifted by a back checking opponent just as he looked like opening the scoring.
Patience would pay for Toronto, as they won their second straight game and look for the perfect finish to a three-in-three weekend at the ACC on Sunday afternoon, with Manitoba once again the opponents.
Post Game Notes:
The last five wins from the Marlies have come with a different man between the pipes.
Sparks, Bibeau, Massa, Bernier and now Rob Madore.
The Marlies made life as easy as possible for the debutant in this game, blocking or letting him get a clear view, but he made the couple of big saves which were required of him.
Richard Panik’s goal was his fifth of the season and first point in four games.
With an assist on the opening goal, T.J Brennan hit the twenty point mark. He’s second in the league for defenseman scoring, behind San Diego rookie Brandon Montour.
Mark Arcobello may have lost his scoring touch of late but has four assists in his last four games.
With his game winning goal, Zach Hyman became the ninth player to hit the double figure mark in points.
Toronto’s penalty kill was perfect on the four occasions it went to action. There was a lack of discipline at times, with half of those penalties taken due to poor judgement. It was the only black mark on what was another good all-round performance this weekend.