An easier schedule than in recent weeks for the Toronto Marlies, but they would only pick up three of a possible six points in their quest to solidify a playoff berth.
Unable to keep the puck out of their own net proved the difference, with Toronto allowing eleven goals in three games – as many as they had conceded through the previous five outings.
Discipline also proved an issue, at the Marlies were guilty of taking an average of five penalties per game and the penalty kill finally broke down having improved in recent weeks.
The power play scored twice at a strike rate of 18%, while the PK allowed four goals against.
The blue line stepped up with some much needed offense – defensemen contributing four goals and fourteen points.
A winning streak of five games was ended by defeat in Hershey but Toronto finished the month of February with a 9-3-1-0 record.
A record of .500 this week means Toronto remain third in the North Division – a point behind the Albany Devils, as of Friday morning.
Friday, February 24, 2017 Toronto Marlies 6 @ Binghamton Senators 3
These divisional rivals met for just the second time this season and this was a game that fluctuated in fortune for the road team.
Leading 1-0 after twenty minutes, Toronto would be trailing 3-2 through two periods after allowing a pair of power play goals. The comeback began five minutes into the final frame thanks to Andrew Nielsen – the first of four goals in the third period.
Saturday, February 25, 2017 Toronto Marlies 3 @ Hershey Bears 4
A frustrating loss for Toronto, who had roared into a two goal lead at the midway mark.
Despite a solid start, the Marlies trailed by a single goal after twenty minutes and Antoine Bibeau had relived an injured Garret Sparks.
They would turn the game around early in the middle frame with two goals in 13 thirteen seconds.
An Andreas Johnsson strike at the midway point put Toronto up 3-1 but Hershey pulled within one with a period of regulation remaining. A plethora of penalties put the Marlies on the back-foot, allowing the Bears to tie the game up before striking late to secure the two points.
Thursday, March 02, 2017 Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4 @ Toronto Marlies 3 OT
A return to home ice failed to put Toronto back on the winning track. After scoring early on the power play, the Marlies wasted further opportunities to pull further ahead before Bridgeport tied the game with 1.4 seconds of the first period remaining. The middle frame was dominated by the road team, who fired 18 shots on net and should have held a larger lead than 2-1. An error from Antoine Bibeau gifted the visitors a two goal advantage with nine minutes to play but Johnsson struck thirty seconds later.
Toronto fought back to gain a point thanks to Andrew Nielsen netting with 24 seconds on the clock.
The visitors clinched a deserved second point just over a minute into overtime.
Andreas Johnsson found the net four times, taking his seasonal total to 18.
Mason Marchment’s scored his first goal for the Marlies, which was also his first American League point.
Andrew Nielsen has slowed down a little offensively of late but had himself a three point week.
He’s now a clear second in rookie defensemen scoring for goals and points.
Four and three assists respectively for Seth Griffith and Brooks Laich, though neither put in overly impressive performances.
Andrew Campbell reordered a pair of goals and assists, including the game winner against Binghamton.
Kasperi Kapanen’s return to action Thursday morning and he was able to shake off a nasty looking hit early in the game. He made an excellent play that led to the late tying goal.
The NHL’s trade deadline certainly had an effect on the Toronto Marlies roster.
The absence of Byron Froese (traded to Tampa) will certainly leave a huge hole in the line-up.
In what appears an agreement added to the Froese trade, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond joins the Marlies on loan. On debut, the left winger provided the sum total of a fight and one minor penalty.
Colin Smith has not been the same player this season and was traded to San Antonio for future considerations. Coming back the other way on loan (contracted to Colorado Avalanche) is Mike Sislo.
An experienced winger who was a part of the Albany team who gave Toronto trouble in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, Sislo will be looking to get his season back on track (21 points in 54 games).
Frank Corrado had been one of the Marlies best defensemen during his short stint and they’ll certainly miss his offensive production. Coming back in the trade with Pittsburgh was defenseman Steve Oleksy.
The Michigan native made his debut Thursday – appearing a little rusty after suiting up just 16 times so far this season.
Clint Windsor was signed to an ATO with worries over Garrett Sparks fitness after appearing to tweak his groin. The former OHL goaltender backed up Antoine Bibeau on Thursday but has now been released. With that in mind, Sparks is expected to play against St. John’s this weekend.
Nikita Soshnikov was added to the Marlies roster in time for the AHL deadline meaning he can be sent down for playing action at anytime from this point on, including the post-season.
Shane Conacher was reassigned to Orlando on Thursday.
With additions to the Leafs roster, Frederik Gauthier was reassigned and had a positive impact during his first game back Thursday morning.
In injury news, Brendan Leipsic and Tobias Lindberg are close to a return, possibly this weekend.
Rinat Valiev is a little further away but could see action by the middle of March.
Brett Findlay is the latest player to suffer an injury, having taking a nasty hit from behind.