The Toronto Marlies have found a way to generate offense but now seem unable to keep the puck out of their net this weekend
For the second consecutive game they allowed their opponents to strike on four occasions and in doing so fell to yet another single goal defeat.
As in many reverses on the road, Toronto dug themselves a hole in the opening period.
Having killed off an early penalty, Toronto would allow the first goal just four minutes in.
Ross Johnston was allowed to coast around the back of the net and although his wraparound effort was denied by Antoine Bibeau, the rebound flew out to Ben Holstrom. There was no player in white near the Bridgeport forward who fired home his fourth of the season unchallenged.
When played resumed a giveaway from Viktor Loov presented the puck to Kellen Jones, whose effort rang off the post. It was a short-lived reprieve as Toronto gave up their second goal in the span of 69 seconds.
Toronto lost of series of battles along the boards and goal scorer Jones shifted the puck to Ryan Pulock just inside the blue line. The defenseman blasted a one-timer that blew by Bibeau, as the home team had two goals on three shots.
Toronto failed to generate anything in the way of offense until a power play at the eight minute mark.
Brendan Leipsic and debutant Seth Griffith were both denied by Jaroslav Halak but the best chance fell to Dmytro Timashov, who had his stick lifted at the crucial moment with an empty cage to take aim at.
A too many men penalty was the last thing the visitors required as the looked to get a foothold in the game. It’s almost resulted in a short-handed marker however, as Tony Cameranesi chased down a loose puck on the left side. Using his speed to drive to the net and across the goal, he was only denied by a wonderful pad save from Halak.
It wasn’t until the final five minutes of the first period that Toronto finally put the hosts under concerted pressure.
Leipsic fired high when looking to go top shelf from an acute angle before Brett Findlay was denied from the slot by Halak after a fine set-up from Kerby Rychel.
Andreas Johnsson and Justin Holl contrived not to create a scoring chance during an odd man rush and Halak would deny Leipsic after good work from Griffith.
A late penalty taken by Trevor Moore ensured Toronto would need to killed a penalty to begin the second period.
To the Marlies credit they did so with ease, but bad habits crept back in back at even strength.
Turning the puck over with regularity came back to bite Toronto as Bridgeport made it 3-0 less than five minutes into the middle frame. Andrew Rowe could barely miss from all alone in front of the blue paint.
A powerplay for the Marlies at the midway altered the momentum of the game.
Leipsic and Griffith were unable to find the net but from the resulting face-off it was left to Andreas Johnsson to jam home the puck on a broken play.
The goal gave Toronto some much need impetus and they hemmed the home team in their own zone.
For all their pressure, a second marker was required before the intermission and it came from an unlikely source. A slapshot from Leipsic hit Halak up high and the puck fell to the back boards. Picking up his own rebound, Leipsic wasted no time in dishing off to Travis Dermott standing by the crease and the rookie defenseman squeezed the puck by Halak for his first professional goal.
The shock of almost seeing their lead almost evaporate jolted the home team into life and they really should have done better with an odd man rush.
They would draw a late penalty almost scoring during the delayed portion before Bibeau kept them at bay twice before the buzzer sounded.
The final frame began with yet more pressure from the home team who literally threw everything they had toward the Toronto net.
This included a hockey stick, which flew high over the glass and into the crowd.
While some players were caught watching this unusual event, Rychel and Findlay escaped on a breakaway together.
The former would take the first shot on Halak, and though the Bridgeport goaltender made the initial save he could do nothing to deny Findlay tapping home the rebound.
Fighting back to tie the game after trailing by three, Toronto needed to remain calm and stick to playing the type of hockey that began the comeback in the second period.
That wasn’t to be the case however as Steve Bernier rocked Johnsson with what appeared to be a slightly reckless hit. The officials made no call, but Loov took exception and dropped the gloves with Bernier. In what was more a grappling match than a fight, it was deemed that the Toronto defenseman was worthy of two roughing penalties to Bernier’s one.
A curious call from the four man crew, who certainly gave the home team the benefit of the doubt throughout this encounter. Either way it was a situation Loov could have easily avoided with the game so finely balanced.
On the penalty kill for the fifth time, the Marlies could no longer stave off the Bridgeport power play.
Bibeau was unable to hold onto a drive from Pulock and Bracken Kearns was on hand to poke home the rebound for his 16th of the year.
With Toronto needing to press for a tying goal there was certainly more space on the ice and chances generated for both teams. Pulock and Bernier had openings for the home team while Toronto were shooting on sight from the blue line but having little luck with second opportunities.
Bibeau kept his team in the game as misplayed passes and poor decisions were once again causing the visitors problems inside their own zone. A shot from Connor Jones hit Toronto’s goaltender flush in the mask and would have trickled in behind him but for a last ditch clearance.
Having come through that near scare, the Marlies made a real push and during a sustained spell of pressure, Bibeau was pulled for the extra attacker.
Toronto would create two good chance chances to tie the game late one, both for Leipsic, but the experienced Halak was equal to each effort and backstopped his team to a third consecutive victory.
For the visitors it was a case of what might have been, because when they played with conviction and purpose, they were clearly the better team. There were just too few minutes through the sixty where Toronto did so.
Post Game Notes:
A first professional and AHL goal for Travis Dermott, who was far and away Toronto’s best defensive player during this game. He appears fully up to speed after the ankle injury which has impeded progress during his rookie season.
Andreas Johnsson potted his seventh power play goal of the season and his second in as many nights.
Seth Griffith made a solid debut and recorded a secondary assist on Dermott’s goal. On another day he could easily have found the net and found some chemistry alongside Froese and Leipsic.
Brendan Leipsic’s lone helper was his 100th AHL career assist. He fired a team leading six shots but was unable to add to his eleven goals this season.
Kerby Rychel registered two primary assists to add to the four helpers tallied Friday night.
Tempers were frayed at the end of this game and the officials handed out ten minute misconducts to Brendan Leipsic and Rich Clune