The Toronto Marlies finished 2016 with a whimper – falling to their tenth regulation road defeat of the season.
Despite taking the lead on two occasions, Toronto rarely looked like holding of an Albany team who were far superior and showed far greater desire through sixty minutes.
The visiting Marlies were gifted some momentum to begin the game 33 seconds in. With Carter Camper in the box, Toronto had some really good looks on the power play but weren’t able to capitalise.
It mattered not as 15 seconds after the penalty had elapsed, Toronto opened the scoring thanks to the endeavour of on of their hardest working players.
A shot from Travis Dermott hit a flurry of bodies in front, and Rich Clune’s determination won him possession. Kicking the puck to his right towards Colin Greening, who slammed home from the high slot to score his fifth goal of the season
It was Albany’s turn to head on the power play but they were denied from responding immediately thanks to four excellent saves from Jhonas Enroth.
Toronto’s best opportunities throughout this game came with the extra man and when Colin Smith drew a penalty, it proved the case once again.
An attempt from Andrew Nielsen took a wicked deflection in front, resulting in the puck bouncing off the crossbar and falling behind the net.
Smith would be turned aside by a fine blocker saver from MacKenzie Blackwood as the final seconds of the power play wound down.
Unfortunately Milan Michalek chose to take an ill advised penalty on the same play and the tying goal came less than a minute later.
John Quenneville beat Enroth with a one-time effort from the right circle for his ninth goal of the season
Upon the restart, Brendan Leipsic teed up Nielsen, but his booming shot was saved and the Marlies immediately found themselves on the wrong end of an odd man rush.
Jan Mandat would score as the trailer on the play but the goal was waived off due to goaltender interference.
Though the beneficiary of that call, Toronto were unable to take advantage of their good fortune as Albany drove the play and hemmed the Marlies in their own zone.
A turnover from Viktor Loov almost proved costly but Toronto somehow held on to ensure the score was level after twenty minutes, despite having been out-shot 16-7.
Little changed during the opening exchanges of the second period, with the home team having all kinds of opportunities to take the lead.
Colin Smith was the latest to turn the puck over in front of his own net but Enroth robbed Quenneville of netting his second of the game. From the resulting face-off, Brian Gibbons unleashed a wicked wrist that also fully tested Toronto’s goaltender.
There are many freak injuries in hockey and Viktor Loov was the unfortunate beneficiary on this occasion Reece Scarlett attempted to nail Andreas Johnsson in the neutral zone but the Swedish winger evaded the hit. In flying over Johnsson, Scarlett was flipped up in the air with his skate catching Loov in the face.
A horrifying moment for all who witnessed it, but Loov would thankfully return later with a full cage and doubtless many stitches.
It’d take almost six minutes for Toronto to register their first and then second shots of the period, but old habits almost cost them dear sixty seconds later. Nielsen gifted the puck to Ben Thomson in front of Enroth but inexplicable fired wide of the far post.
Some better more controlled play for Toronto led to them drawing a penalty.
Nielsen showing his offensive skills with a pair of wicked efforts, the second of which was tipped agonisingly wide of the post by Kerby Rychel, with Blackwood beaten.
Though unable to score on that power play, after killing a penalty taken by Clune, Toronto put themselves up 2-1.
Mere seconds into another power play, an Albany player broke his stick, enabling Toronto a little more breathing room. A huge shot from Nielsen found it’s way through traffic and found twine for his sixth tally of the season.
The lead was short-lived and the Marlies would find themselves behind after allowing two goals in under sixty seconds.
Ben Sexton was the recipient of an offensive zone face-off win but Enroth should have stopped the effort.
The lack of compete then reared it’s ugly head, as Albany made a mockery of the visitors in their own zone.
It was all too easy as Carter Camper fired across the crease on a wraparound attempt and Quenneville was unchallenged as he tapped home at Enroth’s left post.
Toronto were fortunate that’s Albany’s struggling power play continued in that vein, as they failed to score on their fourth man advantage late in the middle frame.
Though trailing by just a single goal, Toronto’s form and record when behind after two periods has been very poor all season.
Having managed just one win from eleven losing positions, the Marlies never convinced that they would change that statistic for the better
For the second straight period it would take the visitors five minutes to register an effort on net. A double attempt from Tobias Lindberg who found Blackwood equal to both.
A fifth power play at the midway point would prove Toronto’s last real chance to take anything from this game but it proved a poor effort as they failed to set up, let alone test Blackwood.
Toronto would manage just seven shots on net through the third period and the Devils would deservedly seal the points with an empty net goal. Blake Pietila, who was unfortunate not to have tallied previously in the third period, was delighted to secure Albany’s 17th victory of the season with his eleventh goal of the year.
Toronto will be hoping for much better in 2017.
Post Game Notes:
Jhonas Enroth stopped 31 shots but really should have denied Albany’s second goal of the game.
Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic both have points in each of their last two games since returning from injury.
Toronto are 1-8-1-0 in their last ten road games.
The Marlies offense has dried up considerably, with just eleven goals in their last six games.
They managed to register just 24 shots on net during this game