Toronto were looking for some swift retribution over a Lake Erie team who had beaten them in Cleveland this past Tuesday. Having never recorded a victory at home on New Years Eve, the Marlies were also looking to set right a small piece of franchise history.
It was a Marlies line-up short on centre’s with Nylander, Arcobello and Gauthier all absent, meaning T.J Brennan of all people was playing as a centreman.
The home team edged the opening period but would not have a lead to show for all their endeavour.
Earning a power play inside the opening two minutes, Toronto showed better discipline than the visitors for the majority of this feisty encounter.
Unable to get anything going with the man advantage, the play at five on five was cagey until the eight minute mark. Nikita Soshnikov cutting to the net from the right side came within inches of opening the scoring. Thirty seconds later and Toronto would break the deadlock. A face-off in the left circle of the Lake Erie led to a broken play. Leivo was allowed to collect the loose puck just a couple of feet to the right of the dot and fired past Anton Forsberg.
It was a lead that barely lasted two minutes as a series of errors proved costly for the Marlies.
Giving up possession cheaply to Lake Erie, the Columbus affiliate were far too easily allowed to set the play for Michael Paliotta to release one of his trademark booming shots from just inside the blue line.
A diving defenseman in front of Rob Madore did the goaltender no favours as it flew just over his pads before nestling in the twine.
Madore would have to pull out a nifty save to deny the Monster taking a 2-1 lead. Derek Deblois had room to manoeuvre in front of the net, and after faking fore-hand, his backhand effort brought the best out of the Toronto netminder making just his second start.
A scrap in front of Madore after a whistle, showed some carry over from Tuesday’s rough and tumble game with Kerby Rychel taking umbrage with Viktor Loov. The Lake Erie forward saw fit to release a flurry of punches at Loov (who did not respond in kind) and in doing so earned himself a double minor and a ten minute game misconduct. No doubt the visitors coaching staff weren’t too happy by the actions of their leading scoring, and their mood wouldn’t have improved as Toronto scored on the resulting power play.
Richard Panik’s attempted pass to T.J Brennan was slightly deflected but the latter was still able to walk onto the loose puck and fire home from just above the high slot area.
On the second of the double minors, Soshnikov almost made it 3-1 but Forsberg made a fine save to keep his team within one.
The Marlies would earn a fourth power play opportunity with 47 seconds left in the period but it would only serve to allow the visitors to tie the game up.
Panik guilty of the terrible giveaway, allowing Josh Anderson to skate away down the right side.
His initial effort would be stopped, but on hand was Trent Vogelhuber to pop home the rebound despite a gallant flying effort from Madore.
A metaphorical boot up the backside may well have been delivered during the first intermission, as Toronto came out flying and dominated the middle frame, out-shooting Lake Erie 12-4 in the process.
On the power play carried over from the first, Toronto had excellent puck movement but couldn’t force a goal despite one excellent opportunity for Leipsic that would have better suited a right handed shooter.
Leivo, Carrick and Leivo once more, would see Forsberg deny both Marlies shooters inside the opening three minutes. Sixty second later Frattin fired only just wide with Forsberg beaten as the home team cranked up the pressure looking for the go-ahead marker.
A booming shot from Findlay brought a huge rebound from Forsberg but no one in white was on hand to take advantage although on the same play Lake Erie were called for too many men, a penalty of a desperate team running around.
Despite yet more rebounds from Forsberg, they once again fell safe, some due to luck and others down to the goaltenders ability to deflect far enough wide of the cage.
Leipsic with a curl and drag move around a defenseman garnered the best chance, but again the Lake Erie goaltender was equal to the task.
Toronto could have become frustrated after Carrick was the next to be denied, this time on a wraparound effort, but they continued to carry the play, even on a penalty kill at the midway mark. Zach Hyman forcing Forsberg to make a smart stop on his five-hole attempt.
With the penalty killed, Toronto would finally solve Forsberg, though in the most unlikely way.
Blocking a shot in his own zone, Frattin was the beneficiary of his bravery as the puck bounced fortuitously for him, enabling a breakaway. Showing trademark speed, he left everyone in his wake and despite Forsberg making the first save, Frattin banged home his own rebound.
Toronto would finish the period down a man after an ill disciplined cross-check from Frattin negated a power play for the home team.
Fortunately for the winger, his team-mates killed the remainder of the penalty early in the third period and upon exiting the box, Frattin went about righting his wrong. A man possessed he was denied twice by Forsberg in the space of a few seconds, the second stop a magnificent effort from Forsberg.
Very much like Antoine Bibeau kept Toronto in Tuesday’s encounter, Forsberg was giving a similar performance for Lake Erie
Toronto were unable to get the crucial fourth goal and insurance marker, and as the clock wound down, Lake Erie began to take more chances offensively. Madore may have been a passenger during the second period but he would have to be on his mettle to turn aside a swift wrist shot with 6:37 to play.
The pivotal moment of the game occurred with Toronto already down a man. The officials took a long time to rightly adjudge that Ryan Rupert had closed his hand on the puck following a face-off.
The Marlies would be down two men for 15 seconds then still on a one man penalty kill for the following 1:45.
Madore earned the second star of the game and it may well have been for the outstanding right pad kick save he made from the top of his crease as Lake Erie buzzed around his net.
Unscathed after the long penalty kill, Toronto would see the game out, despite the visitors playing with an extra attacker for the last minute after pulling Forsberg. Even Clune hitting the post with an empty net to fire into mattered not, as the Marlies finished 2015 with a 3-2 victory.
Post Games Notes:
The Toronto Marlies recorded their 25th win of the season and their tenth at home.
A 24 save performance from Rob Madore, who has two wins from two starts. He’s not a big goaltender like Garret Sparks or Antoine Bibeau, but he’s extremely athletic. Also a very good mover of the puck.
Matt Frattin and Josh Leivo were both in need of scoring after a six and five game slump respectively.
The pair of them firing a combined eight shots is a good sign however.
Viktor Loov should be credited for showing fantastic discipline under intense provocation from Lake Erie in this game. He obviously got under their skin on Tuesday’s and they were looking for some payback. A solid outing defensively with no penalty minutes and three shots on net.
Stuart Percy and Ray Emery (backing up) both made their return to the line-up.
They had been suffering from the flu.
Toronto will face Lake Erie twice more this season and doubtless both should be firecrackers after the games this week. The former divisional rivals still have an intense dislike for one another despite the franchise change for the Monsters.