Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
“Three-game losing streak” hasn’t been in this team’s vocabulary since their season ended in a first round playoff collapse last year. Then again, neither was getting shut out, but the Utica Comets ended that by blanking them on Friday. Today, the Marlies looked for revenge and a high note to end a lacklustre weekend, but couldn’t get it in what ended up being a 5-4 loss.
Much like their other games this weekend, this one started off in rush fashion for the Marlies. Just a few minute after the opening faceoff, an attempted pass by Comets defenceman Andrey Pedan turned into a scoring opportunity thanks to a deflection by Josh Leivo. Antoine Bibeau wasn’t ready for it, and as such, it found its way to the back of the net. The Marlies pushed back soon afterwards, but it wasn’t with their sticks; the game devolved into a physical battle for the remainder of the frame. This hit its peak at the midway point when Rich Clune was made to answer for a questionable hit by dropping the gloves with Alex Grenier.
The Marlies looked to reverse the tides in the second period, but the Comets came back at them with determination once again. This time, Jordan Subban did the damage for Utica, spinning around at the left faceoff dot and sliding the puck through Bibeau’s pads to put his team up by two. Not much later, a rebound in front of the Toronto net became a prime opportunity for Alex Grenier, who stretched the score to 3-0 in favour of the Comets.
All was not lost, though, as Toronto began to pepper the net and eventually got rewarded when Sam Carrick stepped into a snapshot and beat Joe Cannata to break his shutout and bring the game within two with five minutes to go in the period. Toronto kept the pressure from there, but with ten seconds to go, Travis Ehrhardt’s last-ditch shot breezed through traffic and into the back of the net to put the Marlies back in the rough spot they were in before.
Toronto’s push in the third period was a much more valiant one. They flooded Cannata’s crease with shots, and when Chris Higgins headed to box for holding early in the period, they saw a window of opportunity and took it. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Tobias Lindberg was finally able to roof a wrister past Cannata to bring the game within two, and Sam Carrick quickly followed him up with a dipsie-doodle effort to give him his second of the night and close the gap further.
The push was put on hold at the midway point when Rinat Valiev took a penalty, left the box, collided with a Utica Forward, and was immediately given another penalty. After that was over, though, Colin Smith finished up the dirty work of Viktor Loov to tie the game up. That appeared to be enough to send the game to overtime, but with a minute to go, Darren Archibald broke the crowd’s heart by banging in the game-winner from close range.
Overall, I’d say that the Marlies team that came out in the back two-thirds of the game and outshot the Comets 30-18 is the one that many are used to seeing. Losing streaks, contrary to popular belief, do happen and it’s good to see the team try to fight through them rather than mope. The Marlies could probably lose out the remainder of the year and still make the playoffs, but that’s no reason to let up now.
Toronto will now get a few days off before playing three of Toronto’s seven remaining road games next weekend. The first of that bunch will come against the Portland Pirates on Friday night. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.