The Toronto Marlies were off their game Sunday afternoon, losing their first contest of the season 3-2 to the Albany Devils at Ricoh Coliseum.
Outshot 31-28 by the same team they beat in overtime a night earlier, the Marlies (3-1) couldn’t come back after Blake Pietila scored the winning goal on a two-on-one 3:24 into the third period.
Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance against the Devils (1-1-1).
“We weren’t sharp at all, the execution was extremely poor, we couldn’t connect on very much, and then mentally we weren’t any good either,” he said after the game. “You put the fact that we’re not executing, not moving the puck well with the fact that you’re not in the right spots, and you’re going to have a tough night and that’s what happened.”
Trailing 1-0 in front of 3,418 fans, the Marlies scored two goals 1:11 apart to take the lead in the second.
Matt Frattin tied the game when William Nylander stole the puck from Devils goaltender Yann Danis behind the net and fed it in front. Frattin converted for his first of the season, after leading the team in goals last year with 26.
Nylander now has five points in four games this season.
Soon after, T.J. Brennan worked the puck along the boards, sending it back to Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen unloaded a hard slapshot over the blocker of Denis for his first point as a Marlie, having made his season debut Saturday.
But with Victor Loov in the box for holding, Albany forward Mike Sislo connected on a one-timer from the right circle that beat Garret Sparks’s glove, tying the game at 14:00 on the second period.
The Devils went 1-5 on the power play compared to the Marlies who failed to score on six chances.
“We didn’t come up the ice together, we didn’t adjust well when we tried to make some changes,” said Keefe. “When you’re not executing five-on-five, and you’re showing you’re not sharp mentally, your special teams are going to be a mess, power play especially.
“That was the case, there was not a lot going very well for us today.”
Of some concern was the absence of Josh Leivo from the Marlies lineup. The 22-year-old winger participated in warm-ups but was removed after getting banged up in Saturday’s win.
After warmups, Josh Leivo will be replaced by Rich Clune #marlieslive
— Todd Crocker (@HockeyCrock) October 18, 2015
“We decided to pull him out and give him the day (off) and give him a few days here,” said Keefe. “I’m not thinking it’s anything major at this point.”
Albany opened the scoring 5:52 shorthanded, on a tough bounce for Sparks. Jim O’Brien carried the puck down the wing and just threw it on goal, where Sparks redirected it into Stuart Percy and in.
The Devils are a much more experienced team than the Marlies, and that seemed to make a difference. Today’s game was the first all year where Toronto was held to less than 30 shots.
“They’re the oldest team in the league or one of the oldest teams in the league, so they have that going for them,” said Keefe. “They’re strong and fast and obviously lots of experience where we’re a little bit on the opposite end of things.
“I thought that showed a little bit, but it’s a good hard working team that moves their feet and makes things hard on you so you have to do things right, you have to be sharp, and we weren’t either of them today.”