Putting it simply, the Marlies fell flat on their face for a second straight night in Utica. They fell to an early 3-0 deficit, for a second straight night. They also lost 5-2 for the second straight night.
Garret Sparks stopped 75% of the 20 shots he faced, while Thatcher Demko parried away 40 of 42 shots on net by the Marlies. If you’re wondering why there is such a drastic discrepancy in shots, goals, and the score. To put it simply, porous defense and score effects. As Leafs fans as well, I’m sure you’re familiar with those two things.
Travis Dermott and Andreas Johnsson will not be playing tonight, meaning the Marlies wil dress their regular playoff lineup. There are no lineup changes with Andreas Borgman continuing to sit — due to an injury suffered in game one — for Andrew Nielsen. (Thank you, Crock)
Sparks gets the start on Friday night. He has an .894 save percentage in 152 minutes in three games so far in these playoffs.
Trevor Moore - Miro Aaltonen - Carl Grundstrom
Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith
Pierre Engvall - Frederik Gauthier - Colin Greening
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco
Martin Marincin - Justin Holl
Calle Rosen - Vincent LoVerde
Andrew Nielsen - Timothy Liljegren
Greening kicks off the game with a great chance created by the Goat. With Demko on his stomach, Greening tried to get a backhand over the pad while falling away from the net. With some great athleticism, Demko is able to get his glove up high enough to stop the shot.
Almost immediately after the chance at one end, Utica Comets’ leading goal scorer Reid Boucher beats Sparks to the glove side with a wide-open snipe from the slot. Timashov isn’t able to get back in time to tie up the stick off the couterattack.
Reid Boucher scores to put the Comets up 1-0 minutes into the first period of Game 4 pic.twitter.com/9PY6PiF1Na— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 27, 2018
A few minutes later, star-child Timothy Liljegren takes a stick to the face and immediately falls to the ice in the defensive zone. Sparks stops a shot and covers up in order to stop the play. Timothy is able to skate around under his own power and quickly heads to the bench for repairs. There was no call on the play.
The Marlies defense in this game has been very porous in the first half of this game. LoVerde and Marincin both made bad turnovers at their own goal lines that forced Sparks to make some quick, clutch saves. At the halfway mark of the period, Holl and Nielsen (who is without his pregame partner Liljegren at the time) get mixed up, leaving both players on the right side of the ice. Nielsen gets turnstiled by Anton Goldobin who comes in all alone, but Sparks once again keeps the game at 0-1.
Timothy Liljegren has returned to the game and looks unencumbered by the stick to the face.
Pierre Engvall has had two great chances late in the first period but Thatcher Demko stopped him both times. That third line has been good @PuckDontLie #Marlies— #1 Lightning fan (@HardevLad) April 27, 2018
The Marlies leave the first period with the majority of the shots on goal (12-7) and generally out-possessing the Comets. Unfortunately, that play with the puck hasn’t resulted in very many dangerous chances and has resulted in turnovers and four or five great chances against, one of which Sparks wasn’t able to make a miraculous stop on. Toronto leaves the first down 0-1.
The second period started about the same way the first did. The third line get a great chance on the first shift, before a turnover leads to a goal for Utica.
This time, LoVerde gives the puck away at his own blueline, leaving an out of position Nielsen all alone to defend the coming attack. Sparks is actually able to stop the initial shot but the Comets get the puck again and score on Sparks with a crowd in front.
Tanner McMaster scores to put the Comets up 2-0 in the second period pic.twitter.com/TpIocRPU8q— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 28, 2018
Sparks is being hung out to dry by his defense in this game. The forwards are blowing the zone with the defense not mobile enough to get the puck to them. Turnover, 2-on-1 (with Nielsen always seeming to be the only player back), and either a clutch Sparks save or a goal against.
Six minutes into the second, Timashov takes a hooking penalty in his own zone. Barely 30 seconds into the second kill for the Marlies, Greening is able to get away from Dylan Blujus at the Comets blueline for a breakaway. Blujus hooks Greening as he chugs by, taking a penalty in the process, not allowing Greening the ability to finish the play.
The Marlies don’t get much going on the 30-second power play, but do get a second and third man-advantage but are unable to get any serious chances on net. In fact, on the third power play late in the second, the Marlies did more shoving of the Utica penalty killers than shooting on Demko’s net. With a scoreline of 0-3, the Comets do nothing but laugh and refuse to give the Marlies players the aggitation they want.
Before the third power play, there was a third goal. Simpy put, Boucher dangles the Goat — who has had himself a good game so far — out of his fur, before beating Sparks though the five-hole. Marlies are just getting humilitated now.
Reid Boucher breaks Frederik Gauthier's ankles and snipes past Garret Sparks to put the Comets up 3-0. Filthy goal. pic.twitter.com/qU9aZXafqd— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 28, 2018
The Marlies looks clearly fustrated by the Comets. Their players grinning and jeering at the Marlies while Toronto has a power play.— #1 Lightning fan (@HardevLad) April 28, 2018
Period comes to an end.. Marlies deficit now 3 goals
The Marlies are still dominating in shots (26-13), but that means bubkiss at this point in the game. They’re down 0-3 for the second time in as many games, but this time with only 20 minutes to come all the way back. The defense is erratic, the forwards aren’t coming back to help, and Thatcher Demko has stood on his head at the other end. Let’s give the Canucks’ rookie netminder some credit, he’s made some really great saves in this game and in this series.
Thatcher Demko is insane. He could singlehandedly steal this series for Utica.— Mike Stephens (@mikeystephens81) April 21, 2018
Timashov finally gets his goal on the power play after several chances failing to go in. With Moore attracting players to him as he drives to the goal-line, he allows Timashov to find an opening on the weak side. A slick saucer pass lands on Timashov’s stick and he converts for his second power play goal of the series.
Dmytro Timashov scores on the powerplay to put the Marlies back in the game, 3-1 in the opening minute of the third period pic.twitter.com/BWYvLlN4Wz— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 28, 2018
1-4 (IT WAS 4-1!!!!)
Marlies are pressuring the Comets now, the ice is tilting. With the Marlies in the offensive zone following a icing call, Grundstrom takes a interference penalty. The Comets proceed to score on the ensuing power play, Michael Carcone with his first of the playoffs. What could’ve been a potential comeback looks all but dead at this point.
Michael Carcone scores to restore Utica's three goal lead, 4-1 pic.twitter.com/5AMSYPWoWx— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 28, 2018
With Blujus in the box for tripping, the Marlies power play is slow to get going after getting stopped twice at the blueline. On the bright side, Liljegren looks good on the power play. His name-brand mobility is accentuated in this situation, and his shot has much improved; the teenager’s slap shot is making opponents buckle when it hits them. On the second unit, Nielsen nearly causes calamaty going the other way when his whiffed pass finds a Utica stick. Luckily, on this second attempt to get the puck back, he is able to take the puck away and avert the danger.
As he’s circling around his own net, Liljegren bobbles the puck right at the goal-line. Cole Cassels takes the puck from him, passes to Tyler Mott, who scores. Yep.
Liljegren loses the puck while going back in his own zone to Cole Cassels. He passes to Mott whos blast finds the top corner.— #1 Lightning fan (@HardevLad) April 28, 2018
bad night for every single Marlie. no way around it.
.@tmotte_14 buries the one-timer to make it 5-1! @ColeCassels19 has the assist!#EmbraceTheChase #TORvsUTI pic.twitter.com/KcIQ9y6eVL— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 28, 2018
Freddy the Goat is generally invisible in these games, but this time his line helped bring the Marlies somewhat back into this game. Freddy finds a puck behind the net and sweeps it back to the point for Marincin. His shot flies through a sea of bodies before Engvall’s tip sends it into the net. You could immediately tell it was Engvall’s goal because he celebrated very loudly, including a big flourish with the hands.
Pierre Engvall redirects a Martin Marincin point shot to bring the score to 5-2 with four and a half minutes to go pic.twitter.com/N22bLWnVWx— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 28, 2018
Nevertheless, Marlies lose. They didn’t even bother pulling Sparks for a late-game push.
- Every Marlie had a bad game. I can be convinced the third forward line didn’t suck, but that Boucher second goal was just so embarassing I can’t give them a passing grade. Great play for the 2-5 goal, though.
- LoVerde’s first and second periods were some of the worst I’ve seen from him this season.
- I would like to have said Nielsen had a good game but his awkwardly big size has not helped him when the play transitions from offense to defense.
- Liljegren was having a good game until his turnover caused the 1-5 goal.
- After an up and down season that ended with hope, Marchment looks like he’s drowning. He’s gotten carried away with the extra curriculars all series long, and has taken four penalties in four games. All at key times in their games.
Game 5, which is the last game of the series, will be on Sunday in Toronto. Ricoh Coliseum at 4:00pm EDT.
Question for the comments: Are You In?