Saturday, February 27, 2021

Solid start slips away – Winnipeg Free Press

Solid start slips away - Winnipeg Free Press

It’s not how you start, but how you finish. And that certainly rang true for the Manitoba Moose Tuesday as they came flying out of the gate only to fall flat on their faces.

The end result was a 6-2 loss to Toronto at Bell MTS Place. It’s the second straight defeat to the Marlies, who grabbed the opener of a four-game mini-series by a 3-2 score on Monday.

Coach Pascal Vincent had little to complain about after a solid first period that saw his team take a well-deserved lead to the intermission. Third-year pro Kristian Reichel got things started when he lifted the stick of a Toronto defender, stole the puck and eventually put it past goaltender Andrew D’Agostini just 4:25 into the game.

“Kristian is a guy that, since Day 1, we know what to expect. He shows up at the rink every single day and he’s a real good pro. And there’s a reason why he wears a letter on his jersey, because he brings that energy every single game, every shift,” Vincent said of Reichel, the undrafted skater who signed his first two-way NHL deal with the Jets last off-season.

A ferocious forecheck was the early theme, and Moose forward Tyler Graovac, currently on loan from the Vancouver Canucks, picked another pocket in the Toronto zone that nearly led to a goal.

The visitors tied it at 8:55 when defenceman Calle Rosen’s point shot made it through a maze of traffic and past Moose goalie Mikhail Berdin. Winnipegger Adam Brooks, who scored his first NHL goal earlier this season for the Maple Leafs, had an assist on the play.

Manitoba regained the lead at 9:34, courtesy of Nathan Todd. The undrafted forward from Ontario has spent most of his pro career in the ECHL and now has two AHL tallies, both with the Moose, on his resumé. Rookie defenceman Dylan Samberg initially got a helper, but his first-ever professional point was later taken away upon further review.

There’s no question the Marlies have a deeper, more experienced roster, but the Moose showed they can certainly hang when on their game. But that solid work mostly vanished in the middle frame as Toronto scored four times to seize control.

“I think we got away from it, to be honest. We just had a couple lapses. We kind of lost our game for six, seven minutes there and they capitalized. That’s basically what it came down to,” said Todd.

Berdin couldn’t control a rebound, which veteran forward Kenny Agostino pounced on at 3:01 to make it 2-2. Then highly-touted 19-year-old rookie Nick Robertson scored just 42 seconds later, this time off a Ville Heinola turnover in his own end, for his first professional goal.

Timothy Liljegren made it 4-2 at 6:09, as the young defenceman’s initial shot went wide of the net, off the back boards only to bounce in off Berdin. Kristians Rubins, a blue-liner from Latvia, padded the advantage at 18:56 when he one-timed a pass from Robertson through a crowd.

Moose forward C.J. Suess rang one off the post in the opening minutes of the second period, and you wonder what might have been had that gone in. Instead, the ice quickly tilted the other way. Cole Perfetti, who scored his first pro goal on Monday night, came close to his second. The 19-year-old, selected 10th overall by the Jets in last year’s draft, also hit iron later in the middle frame.

Brooks then finished off a strong homecoming by scoring on the power play at 9:51 of the third period. Moose defenceman Jimmy Oligny, who had dropped the gloves earlier in the game with Rich Clune, was in the box at the time for a blatant cross-check on Robertson that drew the ire of the Marlies.

Final shots were 34-28 for the Marlies.

“We kind of stepped back in the second period, and Toronto picked up their game. We didn’t handle that, pretty much. Overall we played for 40 minutes, but we need to play for 60. That’s a problem. We didn’t play three periods, and as a result we lost the game,” said Reichel.

Manitoba and Toronto will take a day off today, then play again on Thursday and Friday as part of the delayed, condensed AHL schedule.

“It’s a short season, but it’s a tough first two games. We haven’t played in a long time, and same with them. There’s really no excuse, we need to come ready to play,” said Todd.

HOMECOMING FOR NAULT: Winnipeg native Kamerin Nault has been loaned to the Moose by the Kansas City Mavericks of the ECHL, where he has two assists in 10 games this season. The 25-year-old forward previously played one AHL game for his hometown team, registering a goal and an assist in the 2018-19 season. He’s a former all-star and Turnbull Cup winner with the Winnipeg Blues (four seasons) and University of Manitoba (three seasons).

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

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