It was an early start at Ricoh Coliseum on Wednesday. Very early. The puck dropped at 11:00 am with thousands of kids from the Toronto District School Board in attendance to see the Marlies play the Binghamton Devils for the sixth and final time in the regular season.
The Marlies defeated the Devils in all five previous games, but, Wednesday, the Devils finally got in a win.
Marlies lines (at the start of the game)
Dmytro Timashov – Miro Aaltonen – Jeremy Bracco
Colin Greening – Marcel Mueller – Ben Smith
Mason Marchment – Frederik Gauthier – Trevor Moore
Kerby Rychel – Jean Dupuy – Rich Clune
Andreas Borgman – Martin Marincin
Rinat Valiev – Timothy Liljegren
Andrew Nielsen – Calle Rosen
Not playing: Adam Brooks, Vincent LoVerde, Justin Holl
Obviously missing from that list is Andreas Johnsson, who is reportedly out with a day-to-day injury. Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe said it was not yet clear if he would be available for their next game on Friday, but it sounds like nothing too serious.
These lines held through most of the first two periods but were shaken up for the third. I will get to that later.
Ken Appleby started in net for the Devils, while backed up by Mackenzie Blackwood. Both entered the game with a SV% 0.893. This may explain why the Devils sit in last place in the whole AHL.
The Marlies started with some good control in the game. A lot of the faceoffs were in the offensive zone, meaning we saw a lot of the Gauthier and Dupuy lines.
The Marlies got a break with the first power play of the game. There were a bunch of scoring chances, though perhaps the best play didn’t quite result in a shot when Timashov made a cross ice pass to Bracco through traffic, but the puck bounced up over his stick. Liljegren was in on the power play and as usual moved down low to take shots, while Nielsen stayed back at the blue line.
There was a scary moment half way through the period when a Devils defenceman with the puck was left uncovered and wide open in the Marlies zone while they made a line change. He took a hard slapshot, and Pickard stopped it with a direct block on the front of his mask. It came off, and he looked a little shaken up when they immediately stopped play. Even sitting at the opposite end of the rink, I could still hear the puck smack the front of his mask.
Things started to get testy around the nets, and it looked like both Nielsen and Clune were either challenged to fight, or tried to start something themselves, but nothing boiled over.
The period ended with no goals.
It started to feel in the second like the Marlies were slightly off their A-game playing in the morning. They were still getting some scoring chances, mostly by getting pucks to the net and trying to jam it in.
Ultimately, the Devils would get the first two goals, the first a rather embarrassing one for the Marlies.
If you want to see the video from a wider angle it’s queued up here. Latta passes off the puck down to a teammate in the corner, then skates around behind the net to find himself completely open, and with all the Marlies players looking away, not one noticing he is there.
Nielsen is tied up, Rychel is maybe waiting for the puck to start a break out, and Gauthier is sort of just watching. That’s one you know they really would like a do over.
A penalty by Greening near the end of the period leads to the second goal by the Devils. Credit to Borgman for the last ditch block attempt.
Keefe will often juggle his lines to get some offence going when nothing is working, and he did in this game. There were still some scoring chances at even strength, but nothing went in until the Marlies finally got another power play. Dmytro Timashov put one away on a breakaway setup by Calle Rosen.
The physical part of the game continued; just ask Mason Marchment who was blown up with an open ice hit crossing the blue line for the biggest hit of the game. He stayed in the game, but I’m sure he now has some bruises.
Pickard was pulled from the net with a little under two minutes left, but the Marlies couldn’t set up anything. The Devils added an empty net goal in the final seconds to win 3-1.
Marlies captain Ben Smith said that while Appleby was good in net for the Devils, they made his job easy. “He played well, but we didn’t generate enough. We didn’t put enough shots on net. We didn’t get enough bodies around him,” he said.
Keefe agreed with that assessment, noting there were times in the first and second periods they were playing particularly well but couldn’t get the puck past Appleby. “You can’t win if you don’t score. We had more than enough opportunities to get more than one today. We can build off of that.”
Here is the game highlight pack
The Marlies travel a road-home series against the Rochester Americans this weekend. They play in Rochester on Friday night and will be back at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.