I mentioned in the recap for last night’s game that the Marlies have spent a good chunk of this stretch playing against teams that were near them in the standings. When you look at the games that weren’t, most of them were against bottom-feeders who were in Toronto’s range a few months ago, but rarely have they taken on teams in the top class.
Tonight was an exception to that rule, for they took on the fifth overall Grand Rapids Griffins. For a while, it seemed like anybody’s game, but as things progressed, the wheels completely off.
This game certainly didn’t start off the way that the Marlies would have liked it to. The Griffins took control from the start, and six minutes in, turned that pressure into a goal. A weak backhand by Brian Lashoff proved a little too awkward for Christopher Gibson to grasp, leading to Tomas Nosek picking up an easy rebound. Toronto shook the goal off and moved along with the game, but couldn’t pick up a goal before the end of the period. They did, however, join Grand Rapids in picking up five minor penalties in the final six minutes; an odd case of pure lack of stick discipline rather than tensions flaring.
The last of these penalties, a hook by TJ Brennan, carried over into the second period. Grand Rapids wasted no time in taking advantage, as just 26 seconds in, Anthony Mantha released a wicked wrister from good distance to widen the gap. Toronto responded to this quickly, however. Just a little over two minutes later, Brendan Leipsic sent the puck across the crease and found Ryan Rupert, who buried his 15th goal of the season to bring the Marlies back into the game.
Late in the second period, however, things went sour again. This time, Nick Jensen was the assailant, finding himself with all of the room in the world to fire a slapshot at Gibson. He did just that, and had a perfect opening, restoring his team’s two-goal lead.
From here, things began to get a bit more heated. A sketchy hit by Martin Frk lead to some pushing, shoving, and in the case of Brendan Mikkelson and Louis-Marc Aubry, some fisticuffs as well. It also lead to a powerplay, and while the Marlies weren’t able to convert on it, William Nylander found himself with a wide open net shortly thereafter and made no mistake, setting up for a third period that could go a lot of ways.
At first, it chose “boring”. Just one shot was taken between the two teams in the first five minutes, with most of the supposed action happening at neutral ice. The madness was eventually snapped, but unfortunately for the Marlies, the deed was done by Marek Tvrdon, Minutes later, Jeff Hoggan joined Mantha and Andreas Anthanasiou on a rush and capped off a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play to make it 5-2.
From there, things completely fell apart. Mark Zengerle and Kevin Porter both picked up goals, bringing the game to 7-2, at which point all hell broke loose. Josh Leivo found himself in the Grand Rapids bench after a hit, and didn’t leave without a fight. No, literally; he and Aubry dropped the gloves right then and there, while a brawl began on the ice. After everything was sorted out, the Marlies ended up with a powerplay, though they didn’t do anything with it and ultimately waited out the final buzzer.
Brendan Leipsic has been a bit cold of late, but looked quite good tonight. He had two assists that weren’t exactly alike (a cross-crease pass and a rebound off a shot), but still equally important. He also had a pair of shots.
Also, a mini-warrior to Matt Finn, who returned to the Marlies after missing over a month due to injury. He’s had a really rough year, and it would be nice to see him rebound. Though, that probably won’t come until next season.
Summing It Up
You have to give the Marlies credit for coming into this game, fresh off of an overtime appearance in another state the night prior, and putting out a strong effort against a very good team.
With that said, that third period may have been their worst of the season, and it ultimately cost them. It seemed like they gave up after the 4-2 goal, and obviously, you want to avoid getting into brawls, even if the intent seems good at the time. The powerplay continues to be an issue too, completely striking out on six attempts.
The Marlies return to the ice on Tuesday night to take on the Adirondack Flames.