Tiredness manifests itself in different ways and although Toronto had some fresh new legs in the line-up, it was mental lapses that ultimately halted their five game winning streak.
Understandable in the circumstances- Playing a third straight three-in-three weekend, some key players out of the line-up and returning back in Toronto at 3am were all reasons for excuses.
Especially when you consider Utica played at home on Friday night, travelled Saturday and rested that evening while Toronto did battle in Syracuse.
The game got off to a sluggish start, neither team able to capitalise on a powerplay a piece although Utica’s unit looked more threatening than Toronto’s.
The first of many odd-man rushes for Utica opened the scoring on eight minutes.
Subban the beneficiary of a nice pass from Jones and he beat Bernier with a chipped backhand finish that you could only stand and admire. It was the first shot on the Toronto net minder but it would have been some save if he’d been able to deny the young defenseman.
Hyman almost tied the game up immediately as he drove to the net but as he ran out of real estate, Joe Cannata between the pipes smothered his effort.
In a period that would see just 13 shots registered, Toronto would end up tying the game with five minutes to play with a power play marker.
A beautiful play involving Nylander and Panik ended with Arcobello being robbed backdoor but Frattin would score shortly after. Taking the puck from below to the goal line to just in front , he somehow lifted his backhand effort top shelve-far side in what was a quite incredible finish.
The first sign of mental tiredness came early in the second period as Utica tallied twice in 49 seconds.
Alex Friesen sniping past Bernier on another odd-man rush during 4-on-4.
The Comets then scored the first of two shorthanded goals. Mike Zalewski the beneficiary of a turnover and he showed great strength and speed to hold of the last defenseman before scoring with just one hand on his stick.
Despite this hammer blow, the Marlies managed to regroup a little and pulled within one thanks to some terrific play from Victor Loov. He sped down the right side on a rush that took him from his own zone to just inside the Utica blue line. Dropping the puck to Findlay who wasted no time in feeding Eric Faille to snipe a goal on his Marlies debut.
Two goals inside the first four minutes and the chances didn’t stop coming.
Utica thought they had re-take a two goal lead at 6:30 but Ashton Sautner’s goal was waived off for incidental contact in the crease on Bernier.
Following the video review, Valiev was extremely fortunate to get away with a giveaway in front of his own net.
Toronto took advantage of their luck throughout the period to tie the game up with 27 seconds remaining.
Leivo with his never-say-die attitude kept the puck alive along the backboards with a strong fore-check.
Panik benefited by picking up the loose puck and found Nylander with some time and space in front and his measured shot gave Cannata no chance.
Early in the final frame of regulation, there only looked one winner as Toronto poured on the pressure.
Frattin, Panik, Bailey and Arcobello all coming close to giving their team a lead for the first time.
Utica were perhaps a little rattled by this surge and took a too many men penalty at the 3:40 mark.
Just eight seconds later and Toronto made the visitors pay. Arcobello with a pinpoint shot from the top of the left circle as Panik screened Cannata.
The surge continued for a while after the goal as a booming shot from Loov was well held by the Utica net minder. A give and go between Arcobello and Hyman almost came off, and Brennan saw his blast well held on the second opportunity.
A penalty taken by Brennan slowed down the momentum and although able to deny Utica scoring with the extra man, it was that man Subban again who almost tied the game. He brought the best from Bernier who somehow saw the shot through a ton of traffic in front.
The Marlies were producing nothing offensively and Utica were looking dangerous as the clock wound down. Pulling Cannata for the extra attacker did the trick as Subban’s shot with exactly a minute to play somehow found it’s way through a crowded crease.
A late power play gave Marlies fans hope of yet another exciting home victory but that wasn’t forthcoming in regulation.
Overtime would only last 16 seconds as Utica’s second shorthanded goal of the game proved decisive.
Brennan dispossessed by Friesen at the Utica blue line and the Comets forward sped away, seeing off the attention of the back checking Nylander before firing home between the pads of Bernier.
A disappointing way to end the weekend but five out of a possible six points is nothing to be sniffed at.
Post Game Notes:
After four games without a point, Matt Frattin scored for the second game running. His line with Leipsic and Carrick was the most effective in this game.
Marlies two powerplay markers were wiped out by allowing two short-handed, the most allowed in one game this season.
A goal and an assist for Nylander, his tenth multi-point game of the season.
A 5-4 loss for Jonathan Bernier looks bad on paper and although he wasn’t at his brilliant best, he certainly wasn’t at fault for the defeat and made some good saves as Toronto left him exposed on many occasions.
His conditioning stint finishes with a 3-0-1 record.