Are the Toronto Marlies ever a beaten team until the final buzzer?
A question that the Syracuse Crunch must be asking themselves after letting slip a two goal lead in the third period.
Back at Ricoh Coliseum after a long road trip, Toronto had dug themselves a hole and the visitors from Syracuse had taken full advantage.
The Marlies had arguably been the better team for large parts of the game but it may well have been Ryan Rupert who sparked his team-mates into life shortly after they had conceded two quick goals and were trailing 4-2.
Scrapping like hell in front of the net with Daniel Walcott, Rupert drew the ire of Henri Ikonen.
Though both were called for roughing, it was basically a fight in which the Toronto forward prevailed, taking down his opponent.
The Marlies responded with a terrific shift, T.J Brennan with on particularly good effort and they used that surge of energy to score less then two minutes later.
Zach Hyman carried the puck across both blue lines before handing off to Nikita Soshnikov. The Russian forward showed his skating prowess by dancing close to the blue line, evading Syracuse players before firing on net. Eric Baier would initially be denied on the rebound but there was Hyman on hand to pull the Marlies within one with nine minutes to play.
Antoine Bibeau was having a game to forget at this point but boy did the 21 year old goaltender come up big when his team needed him from this point on.
A turnover from Rinat Valiev allowed Yanni Gourde to pick out Tanner Richard between the hash marks. Bibeau stonewalled the Syracuse forward and the Marlies responded with a rush the other way. Another booming effort from Brennan ended with a mad scramble in front of the visitors net but somehow, either using the force or voodoo magic, Syracuse kept the puck out of their net.
As time wound down it looked desperate for Toronto as they were pinned deep inside their own zone for over a minute. It’d be Jeremy Morin of all people who made the defensive play to relieve the pressure and set-up the tying goal. Thrusting his stick into the passing lane, he was able to tip to safety an intended pass. It wasn’t “just” to safety though as the puck ended up in the capable hands of Mark Arcobello.
Speeding away down the right hand side like a runaway train was behind him, the Marlies forward gave Luke Witkowski no chance of catching up before ripping his shot under the blocker of Kristers Gudlevskis to tie the game.
There was still time for drama with 87 seconds left to play in regulation.
Forty of those had passed when a shot from Soshnikov hit the glove hand of Gudlevskis, looping over the goaltender and it looked as though the puck might spin back into the Syracuse cage. Another scramble ensued but the Crunch survived and probably should have won the game with ten seconds to play.
Richard was the best player for the visitors and he sneaked late into the slot to receive a perfect pass.
If the first save he forced from Bibeau was great then the second, a right pad stop, was absolutely outstanding. If you were in any doubt, the roar from the home crowd made sure you knew.
The Toronto Marlies have been excellent in overtime this season and this occasion would prove no different. The teams exchanged a single chance each in the first 45 seconds before the game winner came on the third shot.
This might be the fanciest goal that those at Ricoh Coliseum witness this season but it was born from sheer hard work and desire. Matthew Peca had possession in front of his own net but Ryan Rupert was hunting him down like his life depended on acquiring the puck. Finally pinning Peca to the backboards, Rupert won the battle but lost his stick in the process. Undeterred, Rupert dug the puck out from beneath his skates before kicking a perfect pass to Brendan Leipsic waiting out in front.
What happened next is the sort of thing you only really see at the All-Star events.
Leipsic with the spin-o-rama move but showing great patience to wait until Gudlevskis had gone down enough to enable the Marlies winger to roof the puck into the net with a backhand shot.
It was a victory that Toronto probably deserved on the balance of play, no more so than in the first period when they just couldn’t bury chances that could have seen them ahead by two or more after twenty minutes.
Matt Frattin contrived to fluff his lines on what looked a shoe-in chance after James Martin’s shot had been denied. Frattin would try to redeem himself on the same shift but in a reversal, his effort was stopped and nobody was on hand to convert the juicy rebound.
Playing with Brennan, Viktor Loov was an offensive force in this game and he really tested Gudlevskis on a feed from his new partner.
It was a fast and furious opening ten minutes and Loov was once again threatening, this time as provider to Leipsic, but he couldn’t get his effort up and over the pads of the Syracuse goaltender.
Hyman and Soshnikov combined to tee up Arcobello for a wicked one timer but again Gudlevskis was equal to the task. The Syracuse net minder was even better at the midway point, robbing Brett Findlay in close.
The only opportunities the visitors were getting were courtesy of turnovers but Toronto were able to undo more of their errors. Until Loov was called for a penalty that is. Mike Blunden showed some speed coming down the right but his wrist shot was one that Bibeau would want back, as he sneaked by him, almost trickling into the net.
It’d take the home a couple of minutes to regain their composure but once doing so would tie the game up with 1:31 remaining. A shot from Hyman was blocked but Toronto’s desire for the loose puck was rewarded. Arcobello sending the puck back up for Brennan who shift the puck across quickly to Loov.
From the top of the left circle, the Swedish man mountain fired home his first of the season
Bibeau would have to stay alert in the dying seconds to deny an absolute bomb of a shot from Jake Dotchin and then David Broll on the rebound.
The middle frame would not prove as action packed, with both teams guilty of not hitting the target from good openings.
Brennan brought out the best in Gudlevskis not even three minutes in the Syracuse goaltender doing well to narrow the angle.
The best spell of the game for Syracuse was halted by Broll taking a ridiculous roughing penalty that did his team no favours. Toronto’s power play orchestrated one good chance but Casey Bailey lost an edge at the critical moment from the slot.
Back at even strength and the Marlies supposed fourth line caused panic in the visitors ranks.
Brett Findlay with a seeing eye pass to Eric Faille but the latter’s shot was just too high.
Findlay might just be the unluckiest Marlies player this season in his short spell. He looked sure to score but there was that man Gudlevskis again, moving right to left in the blink of an eye to deny the chance.
The Crunch were indebted to their goaltender again to stop Eric Faille who is making a good first impression with the Marlies.
It wasn’t Bailey’s night either as he whiffed on a good opportunity after a nice feed from debutant Rylan Schwartz.
Syracuse would take a lead into the final period of regulation as Cameron Darcy netted upstairs on Bibeau, who was perhaps cheating a little in expecting a cross crease pass. A nice finish but another that Toronto’s goaltender would want back.
The Marlies were lucky not to fall further behind early in the third period as Syracuse were unable to capitalise on countless turnovers. Toronto would finally get their act together and tie the game after five minutes. Leipsic with the drop pass to Arcobello and his quick release was just enough to beat Gudlevskis. The reaction of the Syracuse goaltender told you he would have liked to have that one again but his team responded immediately.
A complete mental letdown by the Marlies as they allowed the visitors to score within 37 seconds.
Tanner Richard winning an offensive zone draw, Blunden sweeping the puck to Gourde, who returned it to Richard to fire a one-timer up high.
Only another 40 seconds had passed before Syracuse doubled their advantage. A pass from Frattin was picked off and Richard took three Marlies out of the play with a pass to Gourde. Without hesitation, Gourde one-timed a pass to DeAngelo on his right who made no mistake in giving his team a 4-2 lead.
Cue another Toronto Marlies comeback victory.
Post Game Notes:
Two game pointless streak? Mark Arcobello has responded with five points in two games, this being his second three point game of the season.
Viktor Loov looked dynamite offensively paired with T.J Brennan. Less exuberant with the puck than his new partner but no less effective, Loov fired a team high six shots in this game.
Brendan Leispic was largely ineffective in the team’s last outing but he responded in this game by getting back to his previous level of play. A goal and an assist takes him to thirty points on the season.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Ryan Rupert’s game. He’s a real pest, happy to lay his body on the line for his team, a grafter but also not short of offensive talent as we witnessed last season.
Four points in as many games for Rupert and he’s struck up a nice partnership with Leipsic.
Casey Bailey, Brett Findlay and Eric Faille. Toronto’s fourth line had a very noticeable and effective game. They could easily have been responsible for two or three goals with a little more luck.
There were Marlies début’s for Rylan Schwartz and Eric Baier. Both acquitted themselves well, Baier netting himself an assist. This was also Jeremy Morin’s home début, having being traded during the road-trip.
Three of the six games between Syracuse and Toronto this season have ended in overtime with the Marlies victorious on each occasion.