Without their now-injured leading scorer, the Marlies may have to depend on secondary scoring for longer than they anticipated.
And in the second half of a back-to-back against the St. John's IceCaps, they continued to get some help from two of their best players of late: Brendan Leipsic and Zach Hyman.
Hyman, an AHL rookie out of the University of Michigan, scored his sixth professional goal (17th point) for the Marlies for the early 1-0 lead after Leipsic carried the puck out from behind the net and found his teammates. For Leipsic, a force with the Marlies of late, the primary assist represented his 13th point in his last 17 games.
But despite the strength from two of the Marlies best players in the better part of the last two months, a penalty to second-leading Marlies scorer Josh Leivo opened the door for the Canadiens affiliate to get back into the game.
And they did, thanks to a goal from 2010 third round pick Michael Bournival -- who has been in and out of the Canadiens lineup for the last three seasons.
Bournival ties it 1-1. Still tied at the end of the first. pic.twitter.com/Uw8VqyI8HK— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 27, 2015
With the score tied early in the second period and a Marlies powerplay expiring though, Leipsic found the scoresheet again by finishing off a play from Marlies rookies Nikita Soshnikov and Rinat Valiev. After picking up his second point of the game, the diminutive winger's three-game point streak saw its point total rise to five (three goals, two assists).
And after trading goals between defensemen Justin Holl and Joel Hanley, Leipsic continued to create. Late in the period, pressing for a two-goal lead, Leipsic cycled off a Carrick drop pass at the offensive zone blueline, carrying the puck with speed around the net and stopping up to find Leivo in the slot.
A day after a 5-2 victory sans-Nylander on Boxing Day, the Marlies carried a 3-2 lead into the final period of their weekend.
Early in the third period, after a rush from Lucas Lessio caught Holl flatfooted and the puck came to point per game AHL forward Bud Holloway, the IceCaps tied the game. And soon, the Marlies 3-1 lead had disintegrated, with top Canadiens prospect Jacob De La Rose pouncing on some sloppy passing to give the IceCaps their first lead of the game.
Even as the Marlies trailed, and the IceCaps pressed, Leipsic continued to create chances -- clearly the team's best player -- on route to another Marlies powerplay with 9:21 remaining in the game.
Leipsic creates another chance with a clean zone entry. pic.twitter.com/jTXDchSgou— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 27, 2015
Unable to capitalize with the man-advantage, Leipsic's line with Orlando Solar Bears journeyman Brett Findlay, created two more chances at even strength before the game came to a close.
Late in the third, pressing again, Leipsic's dominant play paid off -- again -- with a secondary assist on a game-tying Rinat Valiev goal.
Valiev ties the game late. pic.twitter.com/IWfPOqBohx— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 27, 2015
But it didn't last. Moments later, instead of going back to the Leipsic line, Richard Panik, Josh Leivo and Marc Arcobello were trusted with getting the Marlies the lead only to see the latter get out-muscled by IceCaps captain Gabriel Dumont in front for a last minute deciding goal.
Dumont seals it. pic.twitter.com/dYJuv8YZTR— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 27, 2015
With the loss, the Marlies fell to 24-6-2 on the season, loosening their hold atop the AHL standings. The Marlies are back in action on Tuesday in an away game against the Columbus Blue Jackets AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, at 7:00 p.m.
With the three-point night, Leipsic now has 22 points in 31 games with the Marlies this season. The 5-9 former CHL scoring champion has six points in his last three games.