Just 24 hours after producing their best performance of the season, Toronto fell to defeat in a high-scoring affair against the Charlotte Checkers at Ricoh Coliseum.
The Marlies had no issues creating offense but were incredibly sloppy and disjointed without the puck, leaving Calvin Pickard high and dry on far too many occasions.
A bright start from the Marlies saw them come close to opening the scoring many times over. Kerby Rychel was turned aside by Checkers netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, who also denied Miro Aaltonen on two separate occasions.
In a preview of what was to come, Charlotte forward Andrew Miller too easily danced his way through the heart of the Marlies defense before Pickard produced a wonderful double stop to keep the game scoreless.
Toronto’s new goaltender was helpless, however, as the Checkers netted twice in three minutes to put themselves up by a pair at the midway point of the period. A wasted opportunity to clear the zone proved costly, and after a sustained spell of pressure, Valentin Zykov was on hand to pounce on a rebound to open the scoring at the 7:30 mark.
A host of missed assignments defensively put Toronto on the back foot, and although Zykov’s intended pass was deflected away from net, the puck fell kindly for Nicolas Roy to rifle home his first goal of the year three minutes later.
Back-to-back power plays for the Marlies produced a handful of good looks but no goals and Toronto found themselves down by two through 20 minutes.
Inside four minutes of the middle frame, Toronto went on a two-man advantage for 90 seconds. Kasperi Kapanen rang a shot off the iron before finally scoring as one Charlotte player was about to be released from the box. However, the officials had other ideas, dubiously waiving off the goal for goaltender interference.
The luckless Aaltonen was then robbed as Toronto continued to press with the one-man advantage.
After four straight power plays, it was almost inevitable that Toronto penalty kill would have to go to work, and they did so twice in a four-minute span. Pickard kept the visitors at bay with an excellent glove save, while a break from Kapanen down the right set up the snake-bitten Aaltonen, who again was turned aside in tight.
The lone goal of the period arrived at the 14-minute mark off of nicely worked movement by the Marlies. Under pressure just inside the blue line, Dmytro Timashov twisted and turned away from his man before slipping the puck to Andrew Nielsen on his left. Trevor Moore had peeled away from the Checkers defense at the far post and put home the Nielsen’s pass despite his stick imploding in the process.
There were chances for the Marlies to tie the game before the end of the period, but luck wasn’t on their side. Soshnikov yet again brought the best out of Nedeljkovic, Mason Marchment whiffed from the low slot, and Timothy Liljegren struck the post with the goaltender beaten short side.
Nobody could have predicted the eight penalties and seven goals that took place in the course of the final 20 minutes.
The first penalty of the period put Marlies down two men for 29 seconds, but Toronto proceeded to tie the game with a short-handed tally after dodging the bullet.
Frederik Gauthier’s endeavour inside his own zone on the right boards allowed Soshnikov to escape on a breakaway. The Russian forward faked backhand before sweeping the puck home top shelf on his forehand.
Charlotte should have re-established their lead after a horrendous giveaway from Kapanen deep inside the Toronto zone, but a combination of Pickard’s desperation snow-angel tactic and Justin Holl’s awareness defensively averted the danger.
The Finnish winger redeemed himself on the next shift by drawing a penalty, which Toronto took advantage of on the ensuing power play. Timashov scored almost a carbon copy of his goal on Saturday, firing home from the left circle after a cross-ice feed from Nielsen.
After completing the comeback, a let-off from the Marlies allowed Charlotte to tie the game just 11 seconds later. Roy worked his way past two Marlies before teeing up Jake Chelios, whose blast through traffic gave Pickard little chance.
The tying goal knocked the stuffing out of the Marlies and Toronto’s goaltender soon found himself overworked and under-supported. Patrick Brown was turned aside by Pickard on a breakaway, but the Charlotte man drew a penalty on the play. Pickard made two more excellent saves on the penalty kill, but no player in white could clear the puck and Nick Schilkey put the Checkers up 4-3 just before the halfway point of the period.
After a flurry of penalties followed with some curious calls from the officials, Toronto found themselves down by two men and two goals three minutes later. Zykov netted his second of the game to give Charlotte a 5-3 lead with eight minutes remaining.
The Marlies did show some character and certainly didn’t give up hope despite giving up three quick goals unanswered. The final outcome may have well been different had Marchment managed to score on a breakaway with 6:30 left on the clock.
With Pickard pulled for the extra man with over three minutes to play, Kapanen made it a little more interesting with a finish from low in the slot after excellent work from Rychel and Mueller.
Pickard found himself back on the bench at the next opportunity as Toronto searched for a tying marker. Vincent LoVerde nearly scored to complete an unlikely (second) comeback before the Checkers iced the victory with an empty-netter.
This was the first home defeat of the season for the Marlies, who still have to iron some defensive deficiencies out of their game.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto fell to 5-2 on the season but continue to lead the North Division.
– Chris Mueller recorded his first multi-point haul of the season with two assists. That gives him just ten shots and three assists in seven games, but you have to figure the experienced forward is going to find his way sooner than later.
– Andrew Nielsen also registered a pair of assists, although he was caught out at least twice in his own zone. That said, it was a better performance than his last showing after spending Saturday’s game on the sidelines.
– Dmytro Timashov netted on the power play for the second time in as many games.
– Kasperi Kapanen scored his third of the season but, remarkably, is yet to record an assist. Much of that is due to the fact that his linemates Aaltonen and Rychel are currently snakebitten.
– A first goal of the year for Trevor Moore and also a first assist for Kerby Rychel. The latter had gone pointless since his two goals during the opening weekend of the season.
– Calvin Pickard took the loss but this reverse certainly wasn’t on his shoulders. He faced almost 20 shots in the final 20 minutes and certainly did his utmost to keep the game close despite Toronto’s defensive adventures.
– Andreas Johnsson was once more a healthy scratch, but there’s still no official word on the reason why. Martin Marincin sat to allow Andrew Nielsen to enter the lineup, while Travis Dermott partnered up with Timothy Liljegren.
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet – Charlotte 6 vs. Toronto 4