The Toronto Marlies fell to their fourth straight road defeat in Rochester Friday night.
It was Star Wars night in Rochester, and the Amerks blasted themselves into an early two goal advantage that Toronto rarely looked like fully recovering from.
The opening period certainly wasn’t short of excitement, as 27 shots were fired and six penalties called by whistle happy officials.
Brendan Leipsic had a couple of opportunities during the first 15 seconds but it wasn’t long before Rochester opened the scoring. Moments after having a goal waived off from a wraparound attempt, the home team took advantage of a gift from the visitors.
Skating toward his own net, Colin Greening inexplicably presented the puck to Cal O’Reilly, who skated around the net before throwing it back out front to Cole Schneider. The latter notched his ninth goal of the season and the former his 17th assist, with the marker timed at 1:07.
Byron Froese tried to generate some offense along with Leipsic, but neither were able to find a way past Linus Ullmark, despite his propensity for giving up rebounds.
With seven minutes played, Colin Smith failed to find Tobias Lindberg on what would prove to be one of very few odd-man rushes for Toronto. Even an average pass would have presented the big winger a great goal scoring opportunity.
Another Marlies turnover, this time from Nielsen, almost led to a second Amerks goal but a following power play would do the trick for the home team.
After riding their luck somewhat, Toronto allowed an easy zone entry for Rochester, who were then somehow gifted an odd-man advantage.
It was easy pickings as Alex Nylander and Eric Cornel combined to tee up Nick Baptiste for his tenth of the year.
Toronto would draw a penalty of their own but recorded only a single shot of note. Kasperi Kapanen snapping an effort from the right face-off dot that was well held by Ullmark.
At even strength the Marlies would have their chances but fail to take them.
Dymtro Timashov was the beneficiary of a turnover between the hash marks but didn’t test Ullmark enough.
Excellent play from Kapanen led to a slapshot from Justin Holl that produced a huge rebound.
Greening was the recipient in front but contrived to hit the outside of the post with a good portion of an empty net to aim at.
Leipsic and Rinat Valiev at least forced Ullmark into making some saves but Toronto weren’t driving to the net with any regularity or determination to ensure screens or second opportunities.
The veterans were a major disappointment for the Marlies during this game and were mostly invisible offensively. Even on Brooks Laich’s best shift of the evening, he made the wrong choices from two promising positions.
It could have been worse for the visitors late in the opening frame, as Kapanen and Froese entered the penalty box within 35 seconds of one another.
The last thirty seconds were frantic, with Laich fanning on an easy opportunity to dump the puck clear, but Glass and the penalty kill did enough to ensure no further damage was forthcoming.
The middle frame gave some new hope to the Marlies cause.
They killed the remainder of both penalties and halved the deficit with under two minutes play.
Good work from Lindberg and Smith down low, enabled Toronto to keep possession and send the puck back up to Viktor Loov. With no hesitation, the Swedish defenseman ripped a one-timer that beat Ullmark all ends up.
Rochester’s goaltender would redeem himself by turning aside Kapanen and Andrew Campbell before his team finally got themselves into the period.
Nylander and Schneider both forcing Jeff Glass into good saves, before an excellent back check from Smith denied Schneider from what would have been an even better opportunity after a turnover.
The parade to the penalty box then began at 9:05 of the period, with the officials eventually calling six penalties in a little over seven minutes.
Toronto benefited for the most part, with a 4-on-3 for 26 seconds then 5-on-3 for 1:19.
They would let the opportunity slip them by as Kapanen’s one-timer from the left circle was denied and Leipsic’s effort hit the crossbar.
That would prove as close as the Marlies would come to tying up the game, despite out-shooting their hosts 11-4.
Toronto have trailed three times this season heading into the third period and have yet to record a point when doing so.
They rarely looked like bucking that trend despite controlling the first four minutes.
Kapanen should really have put home a rebound attempt and on Rochester’s first real foray into Toronto’s zone, they re-established their two goal advantage.
A high, long range shot from Brady Austin appeared to be deflected in front by O’Reilly, with the puck clipping the top of Glass’ shoulder before looping up and behind him. The Amerks forward was quicker to react than anyone and put home his own rebound.
Glass kept his team in the game at the midway mark of the period with a fantastic diving save to his right, denying Justin Bailey who slammed his stick in frustration.
Any saves from Toronto’s net minder appeared to be in vain as they were generating so little offensively.
That was until Glass was pulled for the extra attacker and the Amerks unwisely climbed into their shell a little too much.
The last three minutes were all one-way traffic as Rochester’s survival first instinct ensured Toronto had plenty of offensive zone time.
That tactic backfired somewhat as Nielsen fired a bullet through traffic in front to bring his team within one.
There was still 1:36 left on the clock and chances for Toronto, as Rochester refused to change tack.
Another effort from Nielsen almost bounced in behind Ullmark and the puck refused to settle for Leipsic who could have had a chance to put home the rebound to the side of the net.
A last gasp effort from Kapanen would be the Marlies last attempt to force overtime but it was too little, too late for Toronto.
A deserved victory for a desperate Americans outfit and the Marlies continue to frustrate with inconsistent efforts and too many players not performing at the level expect of them.
Post Game Notes:
Toronto have now won just two of their last eight games.
Toronto lost the special teams battle and continue to give up far too many opportunities to opponents.
The power play was scoreless through four attempts.
Andrew Nielsen tallied his fifth goal of the season, whilst Viktor Loov opened his account.
Kasperi Kapanen led the team with six shots and assisted on the second goal.
Jeff Glass made his second start and made 22 saves. He wasn’t at fault for this defeat and has done his chances of further starts no harm with this performance.
Garret Sparks’ suspension appears to be over. He was the back-up tonight.