The Toronto Marlies winning streak came to a crashing halt in St. John’s, against an IceCaps team that had lost their last five.
The Marlies had no one to blame but themselves however, as far too many individual errors coupled with ill-discipline, led to this defeat.
The fireworks of the first period on Saturday night that saw six goals scored, were not be found in the opening frame of this Sunday matinee game.
Hat-trick hero Brendan Leipsic began in positive fashion, working his way out of a tight spot to take three opponents out of the play. He dropped the puck to Frederick Gauthier joining the play but his shot was well blocked.
Garret Sparks was making his first Marlies start since November and made an easy enough first save after two minutes.
Jeremy Morin drew the first power play of the game after cutting across goal and almost scoring past Zach Fucale. It was Morin who came the closest on the man advantage but his shot found the outside of half of the post.
The home team responded well after killing the penalty and Viktor Loov had to be use his long reach to deny Charles Hudon on a partial breakaway chance.
Toronto would have a partial breakaway of their own as Zach Hyman engineered space down the right side. He chose to shoot early and Fucale denied him with a pad save.
St. John’s should have taken the lead with eleven minutes on the clock. A horrendous giveaway from Leipsic enabled Bud Holloway to slide the puck across to Michael McCarron. The rookie may have been hooked by Matt Frattin, but he still forced Sparks into a fine save to deny him.
Toronto would kill the following penalty with relative ease and as it ended created a rush that saw T.J Brennan release a booming shot as the trailer on the play, but Fucale turned the effort aside.
The width of the goal line would deny the Marlies taking a lead into the intermission. A period of cycling the play led to a pair of shots from Nikita Soshnikov. The second of those was only partially saved and the puck dropped over Fucale’s shoulder but rested on the goal line. Sven Andrighetto was alert to the danger and made sure the puck would not cross over the blue paint before the play was whistled down.
Despite the Marlies leading the shot count 8-1 at one stage, it was 13-11 after twenty minutes despite a second late power play and owning the bulk of possession.
The home team began the second period the stronger and Toronto would suffer a killer early blow. Stuart Percy making a terrific shot block but the puck cannoned into his face. Down for a long while, he was able to leave the ice under his own steam but would not return.
Josiah Didier and Lucas Lessio almost made the Marlies pay for miscommunication in their own zone, but Sparks robbed the later who was on the door-step as he put his shot on net.
Toronto’s power play just wasn’t clicking in this game but after squandering their third opportunity of the game, would open the scoring back at even strength.
Kasperi Kapanen showed speed down the left side, coming from down low to the point, leaving players in his wake before finding Andrew Campbell on the right side. The Marlies Captain blasted the puck on net and Soshnikov was on hand to put home the second effort in front.
It could and should have been 2-0 shortly after but Toronto somehow failed to score during a crazy scramble in front of Fucale. The play quickly switched to the other end of the ice and Andrighetto saw his shot stopped by Sparks. The IceCaps forward didn’t appear to make a great deal of effort to stop his surge toward the net however and crashed into Toronto’s goalie at some speed. In what would probably have been called goaltender interference in the NHL, no penalty was called on the play and Sparks seemed to be fine after composing himself.
Seconds later and James Martin took a needless interference penalty in stopping McCarron, and St. John’s would tie up the game.
Despite denying Daniel Carr on two occasions, Sparks was unable to stop a one-timer from Morgan Ellis in the left circle. There was no traffic in front and Sparks would feel he should have had that shot as it fired just over his pads.
Toronto responded by re-taking the lead 58 seconds later.
Brett Findlay drove the play into the IceCaps zone and ignored Eric Faille to his right to drop the puck back for Casey Bailey. An innocuous looking shot, although an early release from Bailey, seemed to handcuff Fucale but regardless it was 2-1 Marlies and it’s never a bad idea to put the puck on net.
If Martin’s penalty was needless at best, then Soshnikov’s was totally unnecessary and could be construed as reckless.
Just unable to connect with a pass from Kapanen deep inside the St. John’s zone, the Russian forward seemed to slash his opponents stick in frustration more than anything else.
A rare black mark against Soshnikov and it would backfire on his team as Carr would tip in a long shot from Holloway to tie the game at two.
A high sticking penalty from Arcobello a minute later was more clumsy than anything but again it was a bad penalty to take. On this occasion however, Toronto killed it off and were left a little bemused as to why they weren’t given a power play late in the period. Michael Bournival made a move around Loov in heading to the net but lost the handle on the puck. He sent Garret Sparks crashing into the net for the second time in this game but no call was made.
The final twenty minutes of regulation was just a shambles from the Marlies point of view.
Earning a power play early on, they contrived to allow the home team to score short-handed.
A bad change saw Markus Eisenschmid gain possession down the left boards and he had the step on Brennan before driving to the net. Cutting across the goal, Sparks went down early and the rookie showed composure to flick the puck up and over the goaltender for his first AHL goal.
Exactly 100 seconds later and the home fans were celebrating their team going up by two goals.
A giveaway allowed an odd man rush that ended with the puck on the stick of Ellis. The defenseman has a wicked shot but Sparks would have been disappointed to allow a shot from that distance past him.
Toronto’s netminder redeemed himself shortly afterwards by denying Gabriel Dumont, who had been allowed too much real estate for someone of his talent.
The Marlies were able to claw their way back into the game as Fucale was only able to get a small piece of a shot by Morin, with the puck just about bouncing over the line.
It was a case of one step forward, two step backs as the IceCaps restored their two goal advantage 65 seconds later.
Sparks and Rinat Valiev had some miscommunication about who was to play the puck behind the former’s net. Valiev came out in front of the goal with possession and proceeded to gift the puck to Lessio who promptly scored his tenth of the season.
An unlikely comeback might have been on the cards late in the game as Sheldon Keefe went for broke by pulling Sparks relatively early.
After a spell of prolonged pressure in the IceCaps zone, Brennan and Valiev played pitch and catch before the former beat Fucale with a wrist shot.
Down by one with still two minutes to play, Sparks spent the majority of the time on the bench before Dumont sealed the win for the IceCaps with an empty net marker to make it 6-4 for the home team, the eventual final score.
Post Game Notes:
After his longest pointless stretch of the season (just two games!) Mark Arcobello recorded two assists to take his points tally to thirty.
T.J Brennan potted his 15th goal of the season, ten shy of his career best set in 2013/14.
He leads the team in that department and Nikita Soshnikov is now tied for second with 14.
Garret Sparks made some fabulous saves but looked rusty at times as well. To be expected after a long time out with injury.
Toronto allowed St. John’s to score from two of their four power plays. The penalty kill wasn’t at it’s best but the discipline that led to certain penalties being taken was equally as poor.
The powerplay failed to fire on five occasions and despite all the other problems during this game, the special teams proved the overall difference.