ROSEMONT- The Wolves offense has been stagnent since getting past Rochester in the first round. After losing the second round opener to the Toronto Marlies 5-2 on Friday night, they struggled to find the net again in a 4-2 loss on Saturday night. The Wolves struggled in the first period, showed some life in the second, and finally found some energy in the third. Unfortunately it was not enough.
Despite outshooting the Marlies 8-7 in the first period, The Wolves were unable to score a goal. While on the flip side, the Marlies scored three. Thanks to goals from center Peter Holland, forward Trevor Smith (off a beautiful assist from winger Brandon Kozun) and fellow forward Josh Leivo, Toronto took a commanding 3-0 lead at the first intermission.
What hurt the most for the Wolves is that six of those eight shots were directly in front of the net and in the face of Toronto goalie Drew MacIntyre. In the second period the Wolves got their act together on defense. Despite being outshot 10-5, Wolves goalie Jake Allen stopped six of those shots.
The Wolves defense also had some blocks and deflections. Sadly, they couldn’t score as MacIntyre did a solid job of preserving the 3-0 lead. In the final frame the Wolves did show some signs of life. Forward Shane Harper beat three Toronto defenders and finally put the Wolves on the board just 50 seconds into the third.
The Wolves cut the deficit to 3-2 with 2:30 left in regulation thanks to a much-needed power play goal from forward Dmitrij Jaskin. Before then the Wolves had gone 0-for-3 on the power play. They pulled Allen and went with six shooters for final minutes of the game, unfortunately it would come back to haunt them two minutes later.
Marlies winger Jerry D’Amigo intercepted a Wolves pass in the Toronto zone and took it down the ice and scored an empty netter to go up for good. The Marlies now take a 2-0 series lead back to Canada. The Wolves were extremely aggressive as they got very physical with Toronto.
There were plenty of hits, hard checks and a lot of pushing and shoving. No fights broke out, but the officials sure had their hands full trying to keep everyone separated. The Wolves also asserted themselves offensively as they outshot the Marlies 16-15 over the final two periods. But Toronto’s defense was superior on this night.
Most of the credit should be given to Drew MacIntyre who stopped 22 of the Wolves 24 total shots. Toronto also found ways to keep the Wolves from penetrating too far into their zone. At the same time, the lackluster first period, plus their continuing struggles with the power play held them back significantly.
The Wolves have been outscored 8-4 so far in this series. And heading to the Great White North down two games to none is a dangerous recipe for disaster. The Wolves haven’t overcome a 2-0 playoff deficit since the second round of the 2002 playoffs when they came from behind to eliminate the Syracuse Crunch.
If it’s any consolation, the Wolves went on to win their first Calder Cup Trophy that year. But this a different Wolves team… One that is among the AHL’s worst in power play percentage (24-percent), inconsistent at times on offense, and struggles to make a big play when they need it.
Head coach John Anderson may have to change some lines, or perhaps some roster spots as a whole to light a fire under this team. At this point, the Wolves are desperate to keep their season alive. They need to turn that desperation into results. The series resumes with game three in Toronto on Wednesday night.
Here is the box score from game two.
You can hear me talk Chicago sports every week courtesy of Sports Town Chicago. Every Thursday afternoon at 1:30, I join Paul Chivari and Ryan Fahey. And now on Friday afternoons at roughly 4, you can hear me with Ryan Hoppe and Ryan Stuprich. Also, I’ll be a guest speaker at the Illinois Center for Broadcasting on Tuesday May 13th at 6:30pm. All of the details are here.
Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82