For all intensive purposes this was a must win game for the Toronto Marlies as they look to put themselves back into the playoff picture this weekend.
Struggling for offense and having lost four straight games, a trip to the 30th placed Hartford Wolf Pack would surely provide them with an opportunity turn things around.
There have been plenty of goals scored between these two teams this season and this encounter proved no different.
The opening period very much set the tone, as the puck found it’s way to the twine three times in the opening nine minutes.
Some solid play from Dmytro Timashov just inside the blue, allowed Travis Dermott to gain possession on left side. Upon driving to the net, the rookie defenseman released an effort that seemed to handcuff Brandon Halverson, who had no idea where the rebound had landed.
Seconds after recording their first shot, Toronto drew a power play and opened the scoring.
A tic-tac-toe play involving Byron Froese, Andrea Johnsson and Kerby Rychel would see the latter denied by a fine save. The rebound would drop out to the slot and into the path of Andrew Nielsen, who smashed home through the five-hole of Halverson.
The Marlies struggled after netting the first goal, with the home team pressing hard and the visitors could barely cross the red line.
It was no surprise then when the home team earned their first man advantage but it was Toronto who almost doubled their lead.
Tony Cameranesi led a breakaway from his own blue line, but was always stumbling and never in full control as he released a shot. Halverson caught a piece of the effort which hit the post on it’s way to safety.
Andrew Nielsen would net his second of the game, but on this occasion during even strength play. Taking a drop pass from Colin Greening at the top of the left circle, the rookie defenseman beat Halverson glove side with a trademark blistering shot.
The home team halved the deficit just 22 seconds later as Toronto’s defensive woes resurfaced.
Justin Holl was guilty of turning the puck over right to Steven Fogarty, and the Wolf Pack’s centre man beat Garret Sparks with a one-time shot.
That really set the tone for the remainder of the opening frame as errors from the Marlies presented the home team with a host of opportunities.
Chris Brown would strike iron, Sparks made a fine save to deny Robin Kovacs while Cristoval Nieves and Allan McPherson contrived to miss the target from great positions.
In the dying moments of the opening frame, Dmytro Timashov drew a penalty which enabled Toronto to begin the second period with a man advantage. The following twenty minutes of play would provide six further goals, which began with the Marlies netting 21 seconds in on the power play.
From the right circle, Byron Froese whistled a shot on net which was tipped home by Johnsson to put the Marlies up 3-1.
Eighty seconds later and Toronto scored their fourth.
The line of Moore, Cameranesi and Clune put in a terrific shift, in which they were rewarded for their persistence in winning battles along the boards. Moore firing home on a one-timer on an excellent pass from Clune.
That brought about a change in net as Halverson was switched out for Mackenzie Skapski.
It had the desired affect as far as the hosts were concerned as they tallied the third goal of the period with less than five minutes played.
Toronto coughed up the puck in their own end and Nieves made them pay on this occasion.
A third power play for the Marlies should have been the perfect opportunity to draw further ahead but the visitors once more jumped on some poor play from Toronto.
Mat Bodie stole the puck away after one drop pass too many. After faking a wraparound attempt, he teed up Nieves for his second of the game and a short-handed marker.
With Toronto now ahead by just one goal and the momentum favouring Hartford, a spark was required. That came seven seconds later, on the same power play as Brett Findlay beat Skapski with a low shot before colliding with the goaltender.
That was the Ontario native’s first goal of the season for the Marlies and would lead to him scoring a hat-trick in a little over 15 minutes.
After a whole ten minutes without either team finding the net it was the line of Rychel, Findlay and Faille causing havoc in Hartford’s zone that led to Toronto‘s sixth marker. Winning possession after yet another great fore-check, it was left to Rychel to set-up Findlay with a fantastic pass, and his one-time shot from the slot gave Skapski no chance.
Up 6-3 with twenty minutes remaining, the next goal was important for two teams lacking in confidence and the ability to play consistent defense in this game.
Just 2:20 into the third period, the Marlies tallied for the seventh time.
Eric Faille received an outlet pass on the right wing and drove to the net hard, forcing Skapski into a really good poke check save to turn him aside.
The play wasn’t dead however and Findlay made no mistake in recording his first professional hat-trick.
Hartford far from gave up the ghost despite falling behind by four goals and perhaps may have mounted a comeback should Tanner Glass’ shot have found the twine instead of iron, at the six minute mark.
A following power play for the Wolf Pack was their last real chance at getting themselves back into the game but Toronto stood firm and were looking to run down the clock from that point on.
Sparks was probably a little unfortunate to have allowed three goals and could do nothing to stop the home team netting a fourth with exactly one minute remaining.
A shot from the blue line by Steven Kampfer, clipped Matt Carey standing in front, who was providing an extremely effective screen with no Marlies player near him.
Far from the Toronto Marlies best effort of the season but they found a way to create some offense without their best player, and more importantly, a way to win.
Post Games Notes:
Toronto’s powerplay went three for four but did allow a short-handed marker.
The victory was only Toronto sixth success on the road this year.
Seven goals is the most Toronto have managed in a single game this season.
Not only was Brett Findlay’s hat-trick his first goals of the season but also his first points.
Kerby Rychel enjoyed himself with the two players recalled from Orlando, helping himself to four assists, which coincidently broke a four game pointless streak.
Andrew Nielsen helped himself to the third three point game of the season with two goals and a helper.
Trevor Moore isn’t often spoke about but he recorded his first multi-point game as a professional (1G/1A. His line including Tony Cameranesi and Rich Clune were an offensive threat all game.