Coach John Anderson said the Wolves made “four or five horrendous errors” in the first period Saturday. Those mistakes were too much to overcome, and his team is two losses away from elimination.
Three first-period goals put the Toronto Marlies ahead for good in their 4-2 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal series. Shane Harper and Dmitrij Jaskin scored in the third for the Wolves, but despite a desperate late rally they couldn’t beat Drew MacIntyre (22 saves) for the equalizer. The visitors hold 2-0 advantage with the next three games in the best-of-seven series in Toronto.
The Marlies are in that position thanks to a first period riddled with defensive mistakes by the Wolves that led to three goals and a deficit they couldn’t overcome for a second consecutive night.
The game was a departure from the regular season, when the Wolves were defensively responsible and allowed the second-fewest goals in the Western Conference.
“Brain [cramps], and I don’t know what else to say,” Anderson said. “It’s not like guys mean to do it. They’re simple little plays we don’t execute.”
Those little plays let the opportunistic Marlies beat Jake Allen (18 saves) three times in the first 14:46. Peter Holland scored off a turnover behind the Wolves’ net, Trevor Smith finished an odd-man rush, and Josh Leivo converted the rebound of a breakaway. Even with two third-period goals, the Wolves dropped the first two home games of a series for the first time since 2007.
“We responded pretty well, but it was kind of the same story again,” defenseman Taylor Chorney said. “It was just too late. We kind of ran out of time. It’s kind of been the story of the playoffs so far. We’ve gotten off to slow starts. We’ve just got to find a way to come out flying the first five minutes like we’ve been playing in the third periods.”
If the Wolves do that, they’ll have a chance to rally from a 2-0 deficit for the first time since the 2002 Western Conference semifinal against Syracuse. If not, then the Wolves have played at home for the final time this season.
“They come out of the gates really hot,” Harper said. “We should have been more prepared today, but we’re not going to let it happen a third time.”
Game 3 is Wednesday in Toronto.