A five-point recap of the Marlies 4-3 shootout loss to Grand Rapids at the Ricoh Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
1. Dallas Eakins professed pride at his team's fight in the one-goal loss to Grand Rapids on Sunday, scratching out a point in their third game in as many nights. "I rarely talk to our team after games," said Eakins, whose team earned three out of a possible six points over the weekend, "[but] I stuck my head in there and just made sure that they knew to keep their heads up. I thought we battled hard and I know we left everything we had out there on the ice." Still, the Marlies did own a two-goal lead until late in the middle frame, leaving veteran defenceman Mike Kostka somewhat sour with the final result afterward. "I'm not happy about it at all," he said with a bitter laugh. "Yeah you can pat ourselves on the back and say 'good effort' but divisional game, those are big points; they go a long way at the end of the year. It might be game five, but I don't think there should be any sense of satisfaction out of just getting one point." Kostka wasn't suggesting a lack of effort, but only a necessary clampdown in a close game at home. "We worked," Kostka continued. "We worked, we really did. There's just got to be that extra little bit of desperation to make sure you don't blow a two-goal lead on Sunday afternoon in a three in three…I'm not saying we gave up or anything like that. It just can't be acceptable. Two-goal lead, you've got to learn just to shut it right down."
2. The Marlies have owned the American League's top penalty kill in each of the past two seasons, but have started slowly with a few new pieces in the mix this season. On Sunday, they allowed two power-play goals to the Griffins, falling to 78% (18-23) on the season. For all their early struggles though, the special teams unit did come up huge in the final stages of the afternoon tilt, halting the Griffins on a powerplay late in the third period (which included a brief five-on-three) before stopping them again during a minute and a half stretch of four-on-three in overtime. "Once again we're trying some new guys in there and it's part of the process," said Eakins. "There's some stuff there, some real good teaching video and some stuff that we can go over next week. And like always mistakes turn into positives; it turns into a great teaching tool and we'll get those covered off and get things going again like we've had in the past couple years." Carter Ashton and Leo Komarov are among the new recruits on the Marlies penalty kill this season. Korbinian Holzer, who scored his first goal of the season in defeat, observed some hesitation to what is normally an extremely aggressive group. "As soon as we implement that in our heads again I think the PK is going to be absolutely fine," he said.
3. Sunday's action at Ricoh was not without some controversy. Late in the final frame with the score knotted at threes, Griffins defenceman Brian Lashoff swiftly stuck out the left side (part knee, part hip) of his body toward the knee of Nazem Kadri, who immediately went down in a heap in the neutral zone. A scrum ensued with Kadri, Mark Fraser and others from both sides in the mix. When the rubble cleared, it was Kadri getting an extra penalty for roughing (handing the Griffins a late-game power-play), Lashoff unscathed from punishment. Kadri looked for an explanation on the call, but didn't get one. "I tried to get one," he said emphatically. "I tried to talk to [the ref] and he just kind of gave me the hand to the face. I tried to get an explanation. I really wasn't sure what I did." "I thought that was a dangerous hit number one with a leg being out," said Eakins of the Lashoff hit. "And how [Kadri] ends up in the penalty box I'm not quite sure. I got an explanation, but I just feel sometimes I'm not watching the same game the refs are. They have a tough job, things happen quickly, but him going to the box and us being short there was very strange to me."
4. Kadri has only two assists through the opening five games, but his obvious skill has been on frequent display despite the early point spell. "I don't think Naz gets really affected by that," said Eakins. "He's such a competitive kid and the thing I love about Nazem he's got such swagger, he's a little cocky out there and I think you've got to be that way to be a successful player. I don't think he ever squeezes his stick too hard. He is going to be rewarded. He is doing everything we're asking of him right now on the ice, off the ice and as long he's getting his chances eventually the math part of it just looks after itself."
5. Joe Colborne endured a 31-game goal drought last season, anxious to dispel those memories this season. The 22-year-old had only a point after four games, but picked up two assists in the Sunday defeat, setting up Komarov for his first with the Marlies before dishing off to Holzer for the 3-1 lead. "I was happy today to see Joe get a couple of points," said Eakins. "I don't want him to revert to the thinking from last year when he was in such a hole."
Next Game: Friday at Hamilton