The Abbotsford Heat hadn’t tasted defeat in over a month, but a punchless power play and a hot opposing goalie conspired to snuff their streak.
The Heat had won 11 consecutive games dating back to the regular season, but Toronto Marlies goalie Ben Scrivens made 37 saves on Thursday evening to send Abbotsford to a 5-1 loss in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series on Thursday evening at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum.
Along the way, the Heat’s power play decisively lost its battle with the Marlies’ top-ranked penalty killers, failing to score on any of their nine man-advantage chances.
The series is now knotted at one game apiece, and the scene shifts to Abbotsford for Game 3 on Saturday (7 p.m., Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre).
“They’re called speciality teams for a reason, and we’ve got to be special,” Heat forward Jon Rheault said afterward. “We obviously lost that battle tonight. We’ve got to be better on the power play, myself included. It’s work – we’ve got to win the battles.”
The Heat won Tuesday’s opener 3-1, and in the early going Thursday, it was shaping up to be more of the same as Rheault opened the scoring at 10:03 of the first period.
But Marlies forward Ryan Hamilton leveled the score on the power play at the 15:15 mark, and the hosts took full control of the game with three goals in a span of 4:32 bridging the first and second periods. Those goals came off the sticks of Matt Frattin, Jerry D’Amigo and Korbinian Holzer.
Midway through the third period, Toronto’s Greg Scott gave the Heat a glimmer of hope when he stuck out his knee on Ben Walter, picking up a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Walter was helped off the ice, but would later return to the game.
During the ensuing power play, Holzer was assessed a tripping penalty to give the Heat a two-man advantage, but Kolanos was whistled for a tripping infraction of his own five seconds thereafter.
With more than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Heat head coach Troy Ward elected to pull goalie Danny Taylor to restore the two-man advantage. But Marlies forward Nazem Kadri ended any hope of a Heat comeback when he scored into the empty net with 8:30 remaining.
Taylor stopped Will Acton on a penalty shot late in the third period, but the Heat nevertheless went down to defeat for the first time since March 29, when they lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Chicago Wolves.
In the aftermath, Ward noted his team’s power play must be better.
“We didn’t do anything, period,” he vented. “Their identity is on the penalty kill. That’s how they get momentum, and we’ve got to make adjustments.
“We need to get a better effort out of certain individuals for our team to play better.”
The Heat have prided themselves on being an even-keel group, able to weather the emotional swings during a game. But Rheault felt his team deflated somewhat after Frattin scored late in the first period to give the Marlies their first lead of the series.
Ward didn’t see it that way. He felt the Heat made some decent pushes – racking up 38 shots on the road is nothing to sneeze at – but the Marlies were more efficient with their opportunities.
“We played from behind, and that hasn’t been our recipe for success,” Ward analyzed. “We went through a new experience.
“There’s going to be ebb and flow day-to-day. I thought we still had some good times in the second, but they were opportunistic.”
Heat goalie Danny Taylor stopped Will Acton on a penalty shot late in the third period, but the damage had already been done as Toronto won 5-1. (Graig Abel / Toronto Marlies photo)