A game that featured many spills and thrills may have been enjoyed by many, but doubtless Sheldon Keefe was tearing his hair out.
Mental fatigue may have played a part in some of the individual errors and general sloppiness in play but this has been a trend for a while now, covered up by the amount of offensive talent on the roster.
The first period perfectly encapsulated Toronto’s overall performance against the bottom ranked team in the Eastern Conference.
It was lowly Binghamton who began the better, hemming the home team Marlies in their own zone for well over a minute, hitting the post in the process.
A giveaway, the first of many, at the five minute mark presented Cole Schneider with a chance out in front but Garret Sparks made a very smart glove save.
The road team’s control of proceedings was interrupted by a needless high sticking penalty and sent Toronto to the power play. Mark Arcobello, Jeremy Morin and Brendan Leipsic all had good looks but were unable to convert with the extra man. Toronto generated enough momentum to take the lead shortly after back at even strength. T.J Brennan sending Connor Brown off and away down the right as Toronto created an odd man rush. Brown faked a shot and squared the puck to Josh Leivo who buried home a one time shot from one knee.
It was a lead that lasted just 85 seconds.
A turnover put the puck on the stick of Colin Greening who wasn’t able to beat Sparks but Binghamton continued to keep the cycle alive. It’d result with Greening finding David Dziurzynski from behind the net and the latter made no mistake in tight.
Back on the power play, Toronto would come close to re-taking the lead but weren’t counting on some superb saves from Binghamton net minder Chris Driedger. He turned aside Leipsic, Brennan and Matt Frattin as his team killed off the penalty.
An effort from Casey Bailey with 75 seconds remaining was the last real chance of the period as the teams would be tied at one after twenty minutes.
The middle frame saw the Marlies take an early lead, but again they were very fortunate.
Ryan Dzingel was allowed the easiest of breakaways but crashed his effort against the post. The Marlies responded with an odd man rush back the other way and Josh Leivo potted his second with a beautifully placed shot over the glove of Driedger.
Leivo almost made it a hat-trick inside 25 minutes but his wrist shot from the high slot brought a fine save from Driedger.
The penalty parade began moments later as the officials would send ten to the box during the second period.
Toronto killed their first penalty of the game and came close to extending their lead after a good spell of pressure.
Hyman almost combined with Leipsic while Jeremy Morin fully tested Driedger with a rapid wrist shot.
Some four on four action followed and once more Toronto were on top. Leipsic and Justin Holl with some excellent interplay and another chance for Leivo to record a hat-trick but he failed to connect on this occasion with the one timer.
With Toronto old boys Mark Fraser and Mike Kostka in the box, the Marlies would have a two man advantage for just over a minute.
Sheldon Keefe called a timeout in what appeared to be a crucial moment of the game.
Arcobello found the iron with his effort but as Fraser left the box, Arcobello’s next effort was perfectly placed top shelf to put his team up 3-1.
Rinat Valiev was almost immediately called for interference and Binghamton clawed a goal back within 34 seconds on the powerplay.
Ryan Dzingel showed some speed down the left and looked to be going around the net but threw the puck on net from a bad angle and it somehow snuck past Sparks. Whether it took an odd bounce or not, it was a bad goal to give up and one that the Toronto goaltender would want back
The officials played a huge part in this game with what you may refer to as some interesting calls, especially a non call which would later decide the game.
A flurry of penalties ended the period, none worse than an interference call on Andrew Campbell which was frankly laughable and a tripping on Viktor Loov that was certainly up for debate.
Those calls would result in the visitors having various power play time, some with a two man advantage, to begin the third period. To their credit Binghamton took advantage, as Eric O’Dell slammed home a one timer effort after a nice feed from the left side for his 9th power play goal of the season.
Recovering from trailing 3-1, the Binghamton Senators took the lead for the first time with their third goal in eleven minutes. Toronto’s power play imploded embarrassingly with Dziurzynski beating Morin to the race of the loose puck creating a 2 and 0 in front of Sparks. Schneider was the second man and had the comfortable task of scoring his teams fourth goal.
Another mental error from Toronto led to a too many men penalty but it would prove a saving grace.
As Binghamton headed on the power play with Max McCormick joining the action from the penalty box, Zach Hyman scored backdoor after a inch perfect pass from Valiev.
With the game tied at four a piece you were left wondering what would happen next.
Toronto contrived to keep giving Binghamton some gilt edge chances to win the game in regulation.
Viktor Loov the worst culprit, presenting Greening with the puck out in front but the Senators forward failed to take advantage.
In the end it was sheer desire that saw the visitors take the lead with just under four minutes to play.
Dziurzynski beat Brennan while driving to the net and although Sparks made the first save, it was Greening who responded to the loose puck ahead of Holl to score his seventh of the season.
Toronto’s offensive talent bailed them out twenty seconds later.
Leivo sliding a pass to Brown to his right, who beat Driedger short side, possibly one Binghamton’s goaltender would want back.
The final three minutes of regulation would see no further scoring and it was off to overtime with the teams locked at 5-5.
Binghamton controlled the early possession but failed to test Sparks.
Leipsic chose to shoot on a 2-on-1 break but his five-hole effort was just denied by Driedger.
Brennan thought he had won it but his effort rang off the post.
If the sell-out crowd at Ricoh Coliseum were disappointed by that, it was nothing compared to feelings of the play that followed.
Valiev was clearly taken down inside the Binghamton zone but at such a momentous point of the game the officials curiously decided this wasn’t a penalty after all that had passed before.
Tobias Lindberg made full use of the fortuitous non call and would win the game with a backhand finish on the breakaway.
Toronto’s players and coaching staff weren’t blaming the officials though after the game, as they knew this wasn’t a performance worthy of winning the game.
The All-Star break could not have come at a better time for a team that requires a break and then a “soft reset” for the second half of the season.
Post Game Notes:
Josh Leivo was happy to be back in the AHL. Enjoying the extra ice-time, he recorded a four point game for the third time this season with the Marlies
Connor Brown’s comeback form is nothing short of remarkable and even further vindicates Toronto’s decision to wait until he was absolutely ready. Six points in four games since his return, including a goal and an assist in this encounter.
T.J Brennan and Mark Arcobello both kept their point streak going with a pair a piece.
The former retakes the AHL scoring lead while the latter moves up to fourth.
For the second straight game Toronto allowed a short-handed goal and that’s ten now this season, which must be of huge concern to the coaching staff.
Sheldon Keefe, T.J Brennan, Josh Leivo and William Nylander all head to Syracuse for the AHL All-Star events which take place on Sunday and Monday.