The Toronto Marlies perfect home record fell in disappointing fashion Saturday evening.
The better team throughout the game, especially in the last forty minutes, errors in their own zone and lack of a clinical touch in front of goal would ultimately hurt Toronto.
The opening twenty minutes were not the Marlies best but would see them open the scoring.
During a frenetic opening but neither team were able to create any sustained pressure in the other’s zone.
It was rookie Trevor Moore who broke that pattern, gaining possession and circling around the net, looking for a team-mate in a better position. His patience was rewarded by Greening drawing an interference penalty, sending the Marlies on the first power play of the game with 3:10 on the clock.
It’d take just thirty seconds for Toronto to make their opportunity count.
A no look pass from Kerby Rychel to Brendan Leipsic, was followed by an excellent cross crease feed to Kasperi Kapanen waiting backdoor. The Marlies leading scorer cranked a one timer against iron and in, but a review was required from the officials who originally had waived the goal off.
Markus Eisenschmid was presented with a partial breakaway three minutes later but Viktor Loov did an excellent job of snuffing out the danger.
Dmytro Timashov was back in the line-up and after some terrific give-and-go play with Leipsic, tried to go top shelf with his shot but Yann Danis was equal to the effort.
Andreas Johnsson would fire wide of the net from the high slot and he would tee up William Wrenn on the same play, but Danis held onto the long range shot through traffic.
Antoine Bibeau hadn’t seen much action in the first half of the opening period and was forced into a good stop to deny Jacob de la Rose. He would be further tested seconds later by a turnover right in front of net and then by Sven Andrighetto.
Even when Toronto’s goaltender gave up a couple of rebounds, his defensemen were on hand to clear the garbage away from net.
With five minutes remaining, Frederik Gauthier was denied by a fine pad save from the Icecaps net minder but was able to draw a penalty on the same play. A poor hooking penalty from Josh Leivo cut the power play short but led to some excitement during 4 on 4 play.
Two good rushes for Toronto were followed by an odd-man break for the visitors, but Michael McCarron was unable to find Andrighetto.
With the Marlies having killed the shortened penalty, Leivo jumped out of the box, stealing the puck for Gauthier to lead a 3 on 1 break. The centreman picked out Milan Michalek, who in turn dished it back to Leivo, who really should have scored on Danis, despite the goaltender making a fine save.
With some strong word doubtless ringing in their ears, Toronto came out firing in the middle frame.
Gauthier’s line setting the tone by hemming the visitors inside their own zone but chances were wasted as the home team failed to hit the target from a series of promising positions.
On his next shift, Gauthier would find Leivo uncovered in the high slot, but his wicked shot brought another find pad stop from Danis.
At the six minute mark it was Colin Smith turning provider after great work on the half wall. He dished off to his Swedish line mate Andreas Johnsson in the slot, but his attempt was well held.
Against the run of play, St. John’s tied the game up 57 seconds later.
Max Friberg was allowed far too much space and from the right circle dished off a pass for Eisenschmid crashing the net, and the Icecaps forward beat Justin Holl to the puck before beating Bibeau in tight.
To the Marlies credit, their response was almost immediate. Timashov working his way around two Icecaps before dishing off to Byron Froese waiting to the right of the goal. His shot somehow whistled across the crease, neither testing Danis or hitting one of the players involved in a melee in front of goal.
Kapanen would see his snapshot from a broken play turned aside and Timashov was guilty of not hitting the target from the slot on a perfect feed from Leipsic.
In-between times, a turnover from Andrew Nielsen almost led to the Icecaps taking the lead and it would prove a lesson not learnt by Toronto with a little under five to play.
Yet another cheap turnover in their own zone led to Eisenschmid firing a shot that Bibeau was equal too but the rebound came out to his left. Friberg showed greater determination than any other player on the ice, netting to rebound to put the visitors up 2-1.
Toronto would have to kill a penalty to ensure they wouldn’t fall further behind, but it was the Icecaps who would take a lead into the final twenty minutes – having scored twice on five shots.
The final twenty minutes would lead to further Toronto domination, as a tired St. John’s team looked to cling onto their slim lead.
Colin Greening, Timashov, Froese and Leipsic all came close inside the opening two and a half minutes.
The game should really have a been tied with 5:30 on the clock after Kapanen led an odd-man break down the left side. The Finnish winger found Leivo backdoor, but his attempt was well saved, though he would have score should he have lifted the puck to any great height.
It was Kapanen making things happen again as the third period headed toward the midway point. A blocked shot allowed him a breakaway on net. His shot had Danis beaten all ends up but the effort rang off the crossbar and away to safety.
Toronto were fortunate to be gifted a power play less than sixty seconds later but it proved an opportunity wasted.
St. John’s were lifted after surviving the barrage, and would stifle the Marlies by clogging up the neutral zone as time wound down.
Johnsson would be guilty of failing to test Danis after another excellent piece of play from Smith as the game entered the last five minutes.
Rinat Valiev was the next to try his luck, hitting the net with a long range shot and forcing Danis into allowing a rebound. Toronto were a little unlucky to say the least, as the puck took a weird bounce and spun away from Froese who would have had half an empty net to aim at.
A pair of coincidental minors led to some more 4 on 4 play, which essentially became a power play for Toronto, as Bibeau was pulled with over two minutes remaining.
It was all or nothing time but in truth Danis would only have to make one fine glove save from Leipsic to secure the victory.
Toronto managed just seven efforts on net in the final frame and 26 in total despite controlling the play and offensive zone time through the final forty minutes.
Post Game Notes:
For the first time this season, Toronto have lost two straight games.
The Icecaps lead the series 2-1 and have out-scored the Marlies 8-5.
Kasperi Kapanen’s goal was his eighth of the year – fourth best in the league.
Brendan Leipsic’s assist on Kapanen’s goal is his tenth power play point this season.
Brooks Laich was scratched, Colin Greening taking his place at centre and Dmytro Timashov slotting into the line-up.