Another match-up with an opponent desperate for points saw Toronto out-worked for forty minutes and ultimately lose for the second straight evening.
Rochester Americans are certainly not the most talented team but have been far better at home this season and certainly have received a boost from the new players in their line-up.
It certainly takes a mentally strong team to rebound from the sound beatings Rochester have taken from Toronto this season and they made the perfect start to this game.
The Marlies were caught running around in their own zone and Cole Schneider would score by redirecting a shot from Matt Donovan after just seventy seconds. A rough beginning for Alex Stalock making his debut between the pipes.
The Marlies were firing some effort from long range but time spent in Rochester’s zone was minimal as the Amerks won all the battle’s for loose pucks and were able to control possession as they carried the play.
Stalock had to be alert to deny Nick Baptiste at the five minute mark but a second goal wasn’t far away.
One of countless turnovers handed possession to the Amerks and they drove into Toronto’s zone.
A booming shot got up high on Stalock and he failed to grab a hold of the puck. A juicy rebound in front resulted for two Amerks players to pounce upon with William Carrier delivering the telling touch.
Not the best effort from Stalock but his team-mates had totally abandoned him on the play.
Down 2-0 with 7:11 on the clock, there was still plenty of time for the road team to get their feet under them. Connor Brown tried to halve the deficit with a drive down the left wing but Linus Ullmark smothered the shot, not allowing any second opportunities.
Rochester should have made it 3-0 after nine minutes, with yet another gift from Toronto. Tim Schaller failing to gain full connection with his shot alone in front of Stalock.
Stalock was fighting back after the second goal and made a pair of nice saves, especially one from Jean Dupuy to keep Toronto in the game.
Mark Arcobello would take the first penalty of the game but upon it’s expiry, he immediately set about making amends. A nice give and go ended with a shot from the high slot but Ullmark clung onto Arcobello’s shot with 2:20 to play. A minute later and from the left T.J Brennan also tried to go upstairs on Rochester’s goaltender but would be foiled.
Toronto would draw a penalty late on to begin the second on the power play but after twenty minutes they trailed 2-0. The shot-clock was telling a false tale as the Marlies were favoured 18-12 in that regard without Ullmark having to really pull out any tremendous stops bar denying Arcobello.
Ullmark would have just the one save to make from Colin Smith as Rochester killed the penalty with ease early in the middle frame.
The penalties began to rack up as the team exchanged a couple in quick succession but no real chances were forthcoming for either team during four-on-four play.
The Marlies carved out an opportunity nine minutes in but Stuart Percy fanned on his attempt from the slot. The puck was quickly moved up the ice and with time and space to measure his shot, Rochester’s Justin Bailey would hit the iron instead of the twine as Toronto caught a break.
It was short-lived as another defensive error saw Rochester tally for the third time.
Toronto’s captain Andrew Campbell the man at fault has he turned the puck over on the left boards to Carrier. His confidence high after scoring already, Carrier made Rinat Valiev look silly with a move around the rookie defenseman before sliding the puck past Stalock who was guilty perhaps of going down a little too early. Hard to blame the goaltending though when Toronto were giving up possession in their own zone all too frequently.
Joey Mormina and Rich Clune dropped the gloves after Clune got a little physical with Ullmark. The Toronto man was taken down by the 6’6 defensive giant as Rochester won yet another battle.
It really should have been 4-0 as the Amerks couldn’t capitalise during a 4-on-2 break and then failed to score on yet another power play opportunity. The shot clock in the second period perfectly told the story with the home team favoured 17-8.
It wasn’t so much about a comeback as a sign of life was required from a Marlies team who appeared to be flat-lining . Sheldon Keefe is often a man of little words during post game pressers and he must be doing all his talking in the dressing room of late with how lacklustre his team looked.
Whatever was said actually had an effect as Toronto began to take a little control of the game and would fire the first twelve shots without reply in the third period.
Arcobello set the tone with a wicked shot that only just missed the net and Rochester were forced to ice the puck. If any player and his line-mates have been less at fault than other’s of late it’s Frederick Gauthier. Paired with Clune and Faille on this occasion, Gauthier led the way as his line pinned the Amerks in their own zone but couldn’t force a goal. The momentum put in place would pay dividends four minutes in for his team though
Percy glided past his man and into the zone, teeing up Arcobello who would be denied, but on hand was Brown to stuff the rebound by Ullmark.
It was Toronto’s first goal in over 114 minutes of hockey and it felt like a weight lifted off the shoulders.
Two minutes later and it was Gauthier once again with the shot but Ullmark completely robbed him after hard work from Faille along the backboards and the feed from Clune.
Ullmark wasn’t entirely convincing and a shot from the blue line from Valiev saw the Amerks net minder make a diving save with his pads stacked. Unusual but effective, and kept the two goal lead intact.
Toronto’s penchant for taking penalties was not at all helpful to their third period pushback and Stalock was forced into fine save on the Marlies fourth penalty kill.
In fact Stuart Percy would take two penalties just four minutes apart as Toronto’s attempts to climb within a goal looked to be faltering.
Toronto needed a boost and it came with a short-handed goal. Valiev with the outlet pass to Brown as the Marlies set off on an odd man rush. Choosing to shoot, Brown’s effort beat Ullmark short-side and hopes of an unlikely looking comeback after two periods looked on.
Stalock was coming up big when needed for his new team-mates when required in the third period, making nine saves and even making one with his mask with five minutes to play.
There would be chances for Toronto to score a third and tying goal but it just wasn’t to be.
Ullmark once again to the fore as he robbed Leivo with a tremendous glove save on a point blank shot after a great feed from Arcobello.
The Marlies would draw a power play and garner one huge opportunity. Tobias Lindberg from the slot with a one timer, but he failed to get all of it and Ullmark easily stopped the effort.
Brett Findlay would be called for high sticking and the power play would be over far too quickly.
Stalock would be pulled for the extra attacker for the remaining 1:40 of the game but the Marlies failed to really test Ullmark. It was left to former Marlie and empty net specialist Jerry D’Amigo to send the puck into the yawning cage, sealing the well deserved 4-2 victory for his latest team.
Post Game Notes:
Alex Stalock would want the second goal back but otherwise he did all he could on his Marlies debut, with a 34 save performance.
A pair of goals for Connor Brown and his second double of the season. Takes his total to eight in 24 games.
He’s not alone in making mistakes but a pair of penalties taken by Stuart Percy mean he’s been in the box five times in the last three games.
The third period saw a better effort but Rochester did sit back a little trying to protect their lead.
Toronto will need to improve when facing Utica back in Toronto Sunday afternoon.