The Toronto Marlies struggles against their cross border rivals continued in a dire Wednesday night tilt.
The Rochester Americans entered the game having lost their best forward and captain, but even the absence of Cal O’Reilly failed to stop the home team from outscoring the visitors.
Travis Dermott would strike the crossbar just ten seconds into the game but that’s as close as Toronto would come to finding the net in the opening period.
In fact it would take the visitors until eight and a half minutes played to register a shot on goal.
By that time they were already behind, with the home team showing far more desire and outworking the Marlies.
Matthew Lane dug in during a messy offensive zone face-off and eventually kicked the puck into open space in the slot. Mac Bennett reacted first and his snapshot gave Antoine Bibeau no chance.
Daniel Muzito-Bagenda really should have doubled the lead on the first power play of the game but wired his effort wide. As the penalty expired, Alex Nylander was presented with an excellent chance but Bibeau was equal to his wrist shot.
Toronto’s first go with the extra man came at the nine minute mark but it was truly a dire effort. Not once were they able to set-up in the zone and both power play units appeared clueless.
Having been out-shot 8-1 with a little over eight minutes of the first period remaining, Toronto at least managed five more attempts before the buzzer. The best of those were efforts from Seth Griffith and Brendan Miller but Linus Ullmark would not be beaten
The Marlies began the middle frame with a fair spell of offensive zone times and Johnsson tested Ullmark with a wrist shot from the left circle.
An ill advised penalty from Brett Findlay released that pressure and Toronto were fortunate not to allow a second goal, as Rochester created several good opportunities with the extra man.
A tying goal five minutes into the second period came from nowhere and the home team weren’t best pleased. Whether it was a hand pass or offside, the officials allowed play to continue with Findlay in possession. Kerby Rychel would end up trying his luck from the top of the left circle and Ullmark really should have made the stop, almost helping the puck into the net with his right pad.
A blast from Steve Oleksy almost found it’s way through Ullmark but that would be the visitors only effort of note before the home team jumped out in front again.
Rochester created numerous chances, as Taylor Fedun and Lane (twice) were both turned aside by Bibeau.
Toronto’s goaltender could do nothing to stop the Amerks taking the lead however.
Brooks Laich won a defensive zone face-off back to Dermott in front of his own goal.
Inexplicably the rookie defenseman had a moment of madness, almost scoring past Bibeau but the rebound fell perfectly for Jean Dupuy who only had to roof the puck for just his second tally of the season.
The Marlies were able to respond 56 seconds later thanks to a piece of individual brilliance.
Taking a pass from Rychel just across the blue line, Mike Sislo worked his way around one opponent on the right before a toe drag move around a second Amerks player. Now one-on-one with Ullmark, Sislo showed great composure to score his first goal in a Marlies jersey.
It was only due to Bibeau that Toronto would still be tied through forty minutes. Carelessness with the puck, especially in their own end, allowed Rochester to put the visitors under constant pressure and would finish the middle frame with 15 attempts on net.
It appeared as if the intermission had done nothing to quell Toronto’s problems, as Laich coughed up possession at the blue line right from the get-go.
Oleksy was able to avert the danger and sent Kasperi Kapanen away to the races down the right side.
Without hesitating, the Finnish winger let fly to score up top on Ullmark – giving Toronto the lead with just 22 seconds played.
Normal serviced resumed following the goal, as the home team once again out-worked and pressed the visitors in possession.
That would eventually lead to a partial break for Derek Grant, who wouldn’t score on his first attempt but drew a delayed penalty. Before the extra attacker could even join the play, Nylander and Cole Schneider tried their luck before Grant was on hand to score the rebound.
The Marlies were able to hang tough after seeing their lead evaporate so quickly and a play at the midway point of the third period appeared to spark them into action. Griffith charged down the left wing before pulling up and finding William Wrenn on the opposite side. The defenseman’s shot rang off the mask of Ullmark and away to safety.
Suddenly the zone exits became easier and entering the Rochester zone was less problematic, as now it was Toronto’s turn to hem in their opponents and create turnovers.
Andrew Campbell, Frederik Gauthier and Griffith all had opportunities to net what would have been a crucial go-ahead goal.
More excellent play from Griffith should have seen Toronto on the power play for the remainder of regulation but the officials refused to call what was essentially a rugby tackle on the right winger behind the Rochester net. It almost led directly to a goal as Grant was sent in alone on Bibeau, but he would be denied a second goal by the Quebec native.
Overtime looked to be inevitable until one final mistake from Toronto cost them any chance of taking at least a point.
Andrew Nielsen coughed the puck up at his own blue line, allowing Schneider to release Nylander.
With Nielsen down and out on the play it was an odd man rush but Nylander ignored his team-mate and beat Bibeau five-hole to secure a well earned two points for the home team.
A dysfunctional Toronto Marlies performance and there is much work to be done before a trip out to Manitoba this weekend.
Post Games Notes:
Toronto were out-shot 32-21.
Toronto are 2-5-1 against Rochester this season.
Steve Oleksy’s assist on Kapanen’s goal was his first point for the Marlies.
Brett Findlay and Kerby Rychel both had two point games.
Mike Sislo’s goal was his first for Toronto and seventh of what’s been a tough season for him.
Cal O’Reilly has been loaned by Rochester to Toronto for the rest of the season but did not feature in this game.