The Toronto Marlies hit a new low this season, as they were comprehensibly beaten by the bottom ranked team in the American Hockey League.
The Binghamton Senators have been in better of form of late, especially at home where they have a record of 3-1-1-0, but Ottawa’s affiliate had won just ten of thirty games heading into this midweek tilt.
The opening period was an even affair and certainly Toronto’s best twenty minute’s of the game.
Binghamton’s physical play led to them creating the first chance but the returning Garret Sparks gloved an effort from Max McCormick.
Toronto responded through Bret Findlay’s wrist shot following a messy face-off but Chris Driedger clutched the effort comfortably into his chest.
Milan Michalek was another player returning from a long absence but he was unable to finish on two consecutive opportunities afforded to him.
Viktor Loov and Colin Smith would have been disappointed not to score after an excellent piece of play orchestrated by Tobias Lindberg and Andreas Johnsson
After a flurry of early openings, Toronto so nearly found themselves behind at the five minute mark.
A wrist shot from Andreas Englund was blocked in front and proceeded to bounce around the crease, eventually ending in the skates of Alex Krushelnyski. From a tight angle, Sparks was able to deny the attempt from Binghamton’s left winger.
A procession to the penalty box then begun, with the teams guilty of two infractions a piece.
Rinat Valiev the first to draw the ire of the officials after hauling down Buddy Robinson because the Sens forward had sped around him and was in on goal.
Formers Marlies defenseman Mike Kostka hit the post on a wicked shot from low in the right circle and Toronto would kill the first penalty.
The following two power plays would prove uneventful but Toronto’s second man advantage would see them take the lead.
On what appeared to be a set play, Brendan Leipsic from the right found Kerby Rychel parked out in front. With no hesitation, the winger played a blind reverse pass to the left circle where Kasperi Kapanen found himself alone and he scored his eighth power play goal of the season
The lead lasted less than ninety seconds and the nature of the tying goal set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Toronto were out-worked as Binghamton won two battles along the boards despite having fewer players fighting for possession.
The puck would be transferred promptly to the right wing where Ben Harpur had time to assess the situation. A left-handed shot, Harpur wasted no time in letting rip a shot which seemed to handcuff Sparks and brought the home team level.
The Bsens came out flying in the second period and would gain just rewards for their efforts.
Jack Rodewald and Phil Varone forced Sparks into making a fine save and the goaltender proved fortune was on his side thirty seconds later. A shot from Kostka brought a huge rebound from the pads of Sparks but the net minder flung himself at the feet of Chad Nehring alone in front to somehow deny a certain goal.
Varone would net the go-ahead goal at the three minute mark after a series of mix-ups from the Marlies, who looked particularly disjointed. The Binghamton forward beat Sparks with ease, as he fired top shelf over the goaltenders left shoulder.
Toronto were gifted the perfect opportunity to draw themselves level shortly after. A minute and forty seconds of 5-on-3 power play time but the Marlies managed just four shots on net with Driedger looking particularly strong and confident between the pipes.
Only Rychel and Holl would have further chances to tie the game at even strength but the home team were well in control and were unfortunate to not draw themselves further ahead through forty minutes of play. Jack Rodewald was certainly looking to make a point to his old employers and could have easily netted himself a brace during the middle frame.
The aforementioned Rodewald wasn’t done and began the third period by embarrassing Travis Dermott.
A toe-drag move left the rookie defenseman floundering but Sparks was equal to the five-hole attempt.
Put straight back out to work by his coach, Rodewald threatened again, forcing Sparks into another save but was a little too zealous of the resulting play, ending up in the penalty box.
It was a power play cut short by Sparks playing the puck in the restricted zone, though quite what he was doing so far out of his net only he will know.
Although owning enough possession and making the odd foray into the offensive zone, Toronto were failing to generate any sort or scoring chances, let alone clear cut opportunities.
One last power play with five minutes remaining would provide the last ray of hope for the Marlies.
All they could manage however, was a pair of long range efforts, from Andrew Nielsen and Valiev respectively.
On both occasions it was BSens players who were first to the rebounds, which summed up the difference between the two teams.
With Sparks pulled inside the last two minutes, it didn’t take long for the tenacious Senators to seal victory.
McCormick showing desire to intercept a pass intended for Justin Holl inside the Binghamton zone. Having tipped the puck clear, the Sens forward chased it down before slotting home into the empty cage.
The Marlies managed just six shots through the finale twenty minutes, a sad indictment of their current form, especially on the road.
Post Game Notes:
Toronto have now picked up just one win in their last nine road games.
For the first time this year, the Marlies have fallen below .500 with a record of 13-14-1-1.
Garret Sparks made his first start since December 4 and faced 31 shots.
He made a handful of good saves but also gave up some huge rebound opportunities.
Brendan Leipsic picked up his 20th assist of the season.
Kasperi Kapanen’s goal was his 14th of the year and eighth on the power play.
This was the first of a six games series between Toronto and Binghamton but the teams don’t meet again until the end of February.