‘Twas the day after Christmas, and the Toronto Marlies seemed to be in a giving mood to their opponents, the Hamilton Bulldogs, on Thursday afternoon at Air Canada Centre. In a lacklustre effort, the Marlies were lucky to salvage a point in a 2-1 overtime loss, gift-wrapping a win to their division rivals.

“We’ve been better,” said Marlies coach Steve Spott after the game. “We just did not seem to have legs or the passion needed to beat a good Hamilton team.”

Early penalty trouble stifled the Marlies’ momentum as they were called for three minor infractions in the first period. Toronto didn’t register their second shot on net until there were just over eight-and-a-half minutes remaining in the opening frame, and were outshot 12-4 in the opening twenty minutes.

In the second period, Marlies goalie Drew MacIntyre became guilty of being too charitable to the visitors by misplaying the puck in the goal crease. Hamilton’s Joonas Nattinen converted the scoring chance into an open net for the game’s first goal, leaving a lump of coal in MacIntyre’s stocking.

Toronto’s lethargy was evident throughout its entire bench, whether it was Carter Ashton turning the puck over at the blueline, Greg McKegg not getting the puck deep, or Korbinian Holzer trying to be too fancy in his own end.

Yet the Marlies trailed just 1-0 heading into the third period. A cross-checking penalty to Bulldogs nemesis Jarred Tinordi set the stage for the game-tying goal by defenceman T.J. Brennan. On the power-play, the puck took a strange high arc bounce, eventually coming to a waiting Stuart Percy on the blueline. Percy made a cross-ice pass to Brennan who notched his 13th goal of the year with a slap shot from the right point.

There were some tense moments on the Marlies penalty-kill when Josh Leivo was assessed a double minor for high sticking Greg Pateryn. However Pateryn cut the total duration of his team’s power-play in half when he eventually took a penalty of his own. Regulation eventually ended with the teams knotted at 1-1.

At 3:53 of overtime, it was Pateryn who ended the game after MacIntyre – who had kept his team in the game for the most part, despite the earlier miscue – kicked out a huge rebound.

“If it’s Christmas rust, then I don’t like that excuse,” said MacIntyre of the team’s play. “You’ve got to be a pro. You should be ready to play no matter what. That’s a pretty bad excuse in my book.”

The game was played before 16,589 fans, the largest crowd to watch an AHL game this season.

The Marlies’ next game is Friday, December 27 – a rematch against the Bulldogs in Hamilton. After that, it’s on to face Grand Rapids at Detroit’s Comerica Park as part of the Winter Classic festivities on Monday, December 30.

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

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