After a pair of polar opposite performances against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday and Saturday, the Toronto Marlies had an opportunity to cement the direction of their three-in-three weekend against the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday afternoon. While the teams are longer divisional rivals, the game was still one of many to come in the season series, and a prequel to the December outdoor game at Comerica Park. It was also an important night for Kenny Ryan and Jussi Rynnas, who had to prove to coach Dallas Eakins that it was the right call to keep them in the lineup beyond last night. In the end, the Marlies started strong, and fell back a little, before eventually losing the game in a shootout, 4-3.
The first period was a slow one- so slow in fact, that only one shot on net was recorded in the first ten minutes. Action picked up when the Marlies earned the first powerplay of the game, as Gleason Fournier headed to the box. The Marlies wouldn’t succeed with the extra man, but just four minutes later, Leo Komarov capitalized on a Joe Colborne pass to give the Marlies the opening goal. Fournier returned to the box for a second Marlies powerplay shortly afterward, but the period ended at 1-0.
The second period provided a bit more in terms of action. Five minutes in, Mike Kostka took a slapshot that was hard enough to do two things – make him lose grip of his stick, and get through a confused crowd and into the net to widen the gap to two. It wasn’t a lead that would last long though – Gustav Nyqvist snapped Rynnas’ 88 minute shutout streak less than five minutes later. However, the blue and white quickly rebounded, with Korbinian Holzer netting his first of the year off a point shot. With three and a half minutes to go, Tomas Tatar brought the game back within one with a pretty backhand.
The third period was one with two options for the Marlies – protect the lead, or try to get one more? Unfortunately for them, the rhetorical mystery box was taken, and inside was Nyqvist’s second goal of the net. From this point on, both teams took their share of penalties, and pushed back and forth a bit, but ultimately played safe hockey right until the end.
With two and a half minutes to go, Nazem Kadri took a nasty hit from Brian Lashoff, which led to both teams getting into a 5 on 5 grab fest, and Mark Fraser and Brennan Evans actually dropping the gloves. Fraser took the extra minor, which the Marlies killed off. Holzer took a penalty of his own afterward, but time expired with the game tied at three.
Overtime saw the Marlies kill off the rest of the Holzer penalty, and beyond that, largely clinging on for the final minutes. Nazem Kadri had a great chance off of a giveaway by the Griffins, but couldn’t finish it off. The game headed to a shootout, where Ryan Hamilton, Nazem Kadri, and Keith Aucoin all failed to score, which is particularly unfortunate when all three Griffins shooters capitalized on their chances.
- Jussi Rynnas wasn’t as impressive as last night. He also wasn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t chalk this game up as great, or really, even good. I’d expect Owuya or Scrivens to get the next start, though this isn’t enough to rule him out entirely moving forward.
- Nazem Kadri is going to start pouring goals out soon. He’s been playing nothing short of fantastic in most of the games so far, and at times looks like the puck is attached to his stick. It’s really a matter of finishing his opportunities at this point.
- Kenny Ryan needed to have another good game to show that he could stay on board. An assist tonight definitely helps his chances.
- The powerplay continued its deathly silence, going 0 for 6. This is starting to be a concern for the Marlies, to say the least. The penalty kill was less than impressive as well, at 4 for 6.
- Dropping a shootout 3-0 when your team has firepower like that borders on a fluke. Most goalies at any level would get at least one save at any level, so I’m not buying into this being anything more than an abnormality.
- The attendance tonight was 4324. That’s much less than last night, but better than comparable Sundays last year. That said, the Marlies don’t return to Ricoh until November 17th, now headed on a lengthy road trip while the Coliseum is used for the Royal Winter Fair.