Searching for their 20th win of the season, the Toronto Marlies blew a two goal lead in the third period.
In what was a penalty ridden final twenty minutes of regulation, Syracuse pulled themselves within one with an early power play marker.
Matt Taormina with the shot that weaved it’s way through traffic in front to find the roof of Antoine Bibeau’s net. Trailing 3-2 with 17 minutes left to play, Syracuse were swarming over the Marlies and Antoine Bibeau had to make three straight saves to keep the lead intact. The pressure was only relieved as the Crunch were called for too many men.
Toronto’s power play failed to tally and they were quickly back on the penalty kill.
Surviving on this occasion, the Marlies tried to pull away from Syracuse again but after Loov was denied, Kapanen was called for slashing. A slightly dubious call was made worse as Toronto were then called for too many men. The 56 seconds down by two men seemed to last for much longer than that but the Marlies were indebted to Campbell and then Carrick blocking shots like their lives depended on it.
One final save from Bibeau killed the penalty but Toronto were gassed and wouldn’t really get themselves going until five minutes left to play.
Nylander the beneficiary of a turnover behind the Syracuse net but Andrei Vasilevsky produced a superb save to deny Nylander’s backhand effort out in front. Syracuse threw caution to the wind and Bibeau once again had to be alert in making two sharp saves to his left. The home team Crunch were being urged on by an expectant crowd and they duly delivered with just over two minutes remaining in regulation play.
Waived off initially after carnage in the crease, Syracuse were credited with a tying goal after a video review, Cameron Darcy scoring the first of his professional career.
The long break for the dry scrape before overtime probably favoured a Toronto team who needed to regroup after a period they spent little time at even strength and were out-shot 17-9.
Bibeau twice denied Jeff Tambellini as the home team fired the first pair of efforts in overtime.
They would be the only shots the home team would register as the Marlies started to control the play.
Nylander would see Vasilevsky turn him aside once again but the goaltender down on a conditioning stint could do nothing about the winner. Kapanen firing a wicked wrister that could not be held onto and Rinat Valiev of all people was on hand to score the game winner.
The first period was more reminiscent of the Marlies play we’ve been accustomed to of late.
Dominating possession, Toronto fired five shots inside the first five minutes, Leivo’s effort producing a rebound that somehow eluded Panik and Nylander in front.
Syracuse’s first real rush on goal produced the opening goal at 4:51.
Bibeau made a couple of sharp saves but his team-mates failed to clear in front of him Tye McGinn slapped home the loose puck to send stuffed animals onto the ice, in what was Teddy Bear Toss night in Syracuse.
Toronto responded through Andrew Campbell but his booming shot produced another rebound that slipped past forwards ready to pounce.
Antoine Bibeau was looking more like the goaltender we remember from earlier this season and he produced a fine kick save to stop Mike Angelidis.
If that was a good save it was nothing like the ridiculousness to follow from Vasilevsky on a Marlies powerplay. After Kapanen fanned on a great chance, Leipsic found himself backdoor with an open net to fire into but the Crunch net minder produced an unbelievable splits save to keep his team in front.
Toronto would not be denied on the next man advantage however as Nylander caressed the puck into the wheelhouse of T.J Brenan who smashed home the tying goal from the top of the right circle.
Timed exactly at 15 minutes it took just 66 seconds for the Marlies to take the lead.
Leipsic feeding Carrick as he entered the Crunch zone with speed, and although his shot was saved, Matt Frattin was able to put home over the pad of Vasilevsky from an acute enough angle.
It wasn’t long before it was a 3-1 advantage for the road team.
During four on four play it was Leipsic who was the architect again, this time finding Andrew Campbell who measured a perfect shot from between the hash marks to give Vasilevsky no chance.
There was time for Anthony DeAngelo to set-up Matthew Peca with a great feed but Bibeau produced another wonderful save to preserve the two goal advantage.
A late penalty called in the first began the chain of some ill-discipline from Toronto that followed into the second and beyond.
It was the Marlies who almost scored shorthanded though as Carrick went close and then Vasilevsky, who lost his stick on making the save from Carrick, went chasing his twig and almost allowed the visitors to score into the gaping net but he got back in the nick of time.
With the penalty killed, Kapanen and Frattin were the next to bring the best out of Vasilevsky.
It could and probably should have been 4-1 at the six minute mark. Yet another blast from Captain Campbell resulted in a huge rebound and Carrick had a fair chunk of the net to aim at from the right side but failed to hit the target.
Despite owning a good chunk of possession, Toronto were unable to generate much in the way of scoring chances from that point on. In fact both sides would only register eight shots a piece in the middle frame.
T.J Brennan did not have his best game defensively and he was thankful to his net minder for bailing him out with three minutes to play. Joel Vermin beating him with ease to a loose puck on the left side before driving to the net. He went across Bibeau, looking to slide the puck back five-hole but the Toronto net minder was not to be beaten on this occasion.
Credit the Syracuse Crunch for the comeback in the third but this Toronto team still keeps finding a way to win.
Post Game Notes:
Antoine Bibeau made 32 saves for the win and this was a well needed confidence boost for him after losing two straight in St. John’s.
T.J Brennan’s marker gives him outright lead in defenseman for goals scored and the tie for points.
Andrew Campbell now has seven goals for the season. When you consider he had only 16 in his previous seven seasons, this is some feat and there’s more to come offensively.
Two assists for Brendan Leipsic and a team leading five shots. He’s certainly an enigma at times, but the recently assembled line including Carrick, Frattin and himself is proving more of a threat with each games that passes.
Rob Madore backed up Antoine Bibeau, keeping Jonathan Bernier fresh for his last game in a Marlies uniform. That is Sunday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum as Toronto face divisional rival Utica for the second time this weekend.
A league leading twenty wins on the season as is twelve on the road.
The one hundred goal mark was broken in the process but Texas lead the way with 103, one more than Toronto.