On a day of improbable things happening in the world of the Toronto Marlies (who saw the Ray Emery signing coming), perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised by the epic comeback they managed to pull off against the league leading Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
Pittsburgh’s affiliate were 12-2 at home and yet to give up a lead after two periods, perfect on the 16 occasions they were in front after forty minutes.
WBS were up by two goals to nothing and honestly it could and should have been more as they had dominated the visitors. Toronto were indebted to Antoine Bibeau, but even he was powerless to stop the Pens increasing their advantage inside three minutes of the third period.
An early powerplay for the home team saw Josh Archibald and Tom Kuhnhackl only denied by Bibeau, but as the penalty wound down, another was called on Toronto, leaving them down by two men.
A delay of game penalty for knocking the net of it moorings, was pegged on Andrew Campbell.
An extraordinarily rare call in the AHL, with officials rarely ever making it, despite it being blatant on occasions.
WBS took advantage by winning the face-off and before Scott Harrington could get himself into the play upon leaving the box, defenseman Derrick Pouliot made a move around Mark Arcobello and fired past Bibeau.
Down 3-0 with 17 minutes to play, the Marlies cause looked even more helpless when Rich Clune took a cross checking penalty. It would prove the turning point in an extraordinary two minutes and 34 seconds of hockey, the like of which I’ve never witnessed before.
Arcobello entered the zone on a pas from Zach Hyman, measuring his shot from the left circle with traffic in front to beat Brian Foster, making his AHL debut between the pipes.
Just 39 seconds later and the Marlies pulled within one.
Taking a feed from Sam Carrick, Nikita Soshnikov used his strength and speed to drive across Foster before scoring with a backhand shot.
Upon the penalty being killed, Archibald was sent in alone courtesy of a long breakout pass.
Bibeau and the Marlies were glad to hear the ring of iron as the Pens forward slammed his stick in frustration and all those involved with WBS cursed their luck.
Arcobello was in the box within 13 seconds of Clune leaving it, but yet again being short-handed worked a charm for Toronto. The aforementioned Clune showed speed to beat two opponents, and then strength to hold off the trailing man, with one hand on his stick before firing home on his forehand.
Three short-handed goals in 2:34, to draw the Marlies level with just under 13 minutes to play.
A quite remarkable turnaround, if un-deserved in the context of the game.
Chances were at a premium for the remainder of regulation play.
Toronto wasting a power play before once again Bibeau was holding the fort with a shoulder save to deny Jean-Sebastien Dea who had burst down the left wing.
Harrington would have the best chance with three minutes remaining but fired wide from a great position after being the beneficiary of a broken play.
After being run roughshod during the majority of regulation play, it was Toronto’s turn to control the play in overtime. Arcobello had a good sighter inside 15 seconds but saw his effort deflected high.
Nylander on a breakaway would win the game, right? Wrong. Young Foster stood on his head to deny him, as he would again on a following power play for Toronto.
The extra man couldn’t bring about a game winner and neither could Captain Campbell, who saw his booming shot and follow up both denied by Foster.
It’d be off to the shootout then, the third time for the Marlies this season but the first occasion for the home team Pens.
WBS would shoot first and Bibeau pulled out the poke check to deny Dominik Simon.
Arcobello’s effort brought a pad save, Scott Wilson fired high and Nylander’s five-hole effort was stopped.
Bibeau would get just enough of his glove on Dea’s effort to send it high and give Soshnikov the chance to be the hero. The Russian would not disappoint, as his backhand effort found the five-hole perfectly to seal the extra point.
A victory looked a long way off for Toronto as they were comprehensively outplayed during the opening forty minutes.
Bibeau was called upon to make a flying right pad save before the Marlies were quickly down by two men, with Viktor Loov and Hyman in the box. Soshnikov came close to scoring short-handed, perhaps then we should have known what was to follow, but Toronto held firm to kill the penalty with Bibeau looking on top form. Even he though could do nothing to stop the home team taking the lead. Defenseman Clark Seymour gratefully pounced upon the loose puck in the high slot and his shot through traffic sent the water bottle flying to open the scoring.
Despite a lack of efforts on net, Toronto would come close to tying the game after the midway marker. Nylander, Frattin and Hyman all with efforts denied. The home team deservedly extended their with 14 minutes on the clock. Wilson showing speed to burst through the neutral zone. One on one with Stuart Percy, he made two moves on the defenseman before chipping the puck past him and scoring on Bibeau. A terrific goal and you could see why that was his 15th of the year.
There would be no scoring in the middle frame but that was solely down to the brilliance of Antoine Bibeau as the Marlies were out-shot 16-7.
He had to scramble around three times in the opening ninety seconds to keep the home team off the board, while denying Wilson just before the five minute marker with a superb glove save.
It’s fair to say that Wilson could easily have had himself a hat-trick.
Yet again Toronto’s best opportunity came when shorthanded as WBS failed to handle the Marlies aggressive penalty kill. Carrick and Soshnikov combining, with the latter denied by Foster.
You give kudos to Toronto for their never-say-die attitude but Sheldon Keefe and this group of players are under no illusions, that performances like these are just not good enough.
Post Games Notes:
He’s been shorn of confidence since a stint with the Leafs, but Antoine Bibeau was magnificent in this game and his 39 saves were the reason Toronto even had a chance to mount a comeback.
Three straight wins for Bibeau and he’ll now join the Leafs again, this time to back-up Jonathan Bernier.
Three short-handed tallies puts the Marlies at seven goals for the season while down at least a man.
Nikita Soshnikov and Rich Clune both scoring their second shorthanded goals of the year.
Toronto improved to 3-4-1-0 when trailing after two periods of play.
Toronto have won all three shootouts this season, scoring four times and turning aside all eight shooters.
Ray Emery backed up Bibeau in this game, which probably means that Rob Madore will get the start in Hershey Saturday evening.
The Marlies point streak is extended to eight games and they now lead the AHL standings by 0.005%