This Toronto Marlies team continue to confound and astound as they performed yet another miraculous comeback.
Back in December Toronto trailed 3-0 early in the third period against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before scoring three short-handed goal to tie the game and winning in a shootout.
The Marlies were horribly out-played in that game but this encounter was a whole different ball-game.
Matt Murray is arguably the best goaltending prospect in the AHL right now and he stole the show in the opening period.
He had to be sharp 45 seconds in as Brendan Leipsic showcased his stick handling and speed to create a chance cutting from right to left across the goal.
Toronto were guilty of far too many giveaways and David Kolomatis was the first guilty part but Antoine Bibeau came to his rescue with a smart save as WBS players swarmed the net.
The Marlies were looking to fire as much rubber as Murray as possible but he was more than up to the task of denying Stuart Percy and Nikita Soshnikov on the juicy rebound.
The line of Leipsic, Findlay and Brown were causing problems for the WBS defense, the with latter two just missing out on a pair of chances after fine set-up work from Leipsic
A turnover from Jeremy Morin allowed Pens Captain Tom Kostopoulos some time and space down the left wing but Antoine Bibeau made a fine double save with his left pad and then the blocker on the rebound.
The errors continued and Toronto were thankful to Andrew Campbell and Justin Holl who made both sliding defensive plays to cut out odd man rushes for the visitors.
The only power play of the period went the way of the home team but Murray wasn’t for beating. Frattin and Lindberg were both denied with no one on hand to put home the second effort, while William Nylander banged his stick on the ice in frustration after watching Murray glove his effort.
As the clock would down one last drive from Soshnikov ended with the puck loose in the crease but nobody in white and blue was on hand to put it home.
A total of 19 saves for Matt Murray in the first period and his team-mates would repay his effort early in the middle frame.
An early penalty 15 seconds in put Toronto on the back foot and under a minute later they were down 1-0. WBS drove to the net and just banged away at a loose puck in front, finally able to sneak it pas the right leg of Antoine Bibeau with Anton Zlobin credited as getting the final touch.
In a flash the visitors would double their advantage.
Campbell guilty of a misplaced pass inside his own zone and Karl Mouillierat made him pay as he rifled home past Bibeau’s glove.
Down 2-0 with not even two minutes on the clock, Toronto would fail to really get their legs underneath them for the rest of the period.
A power play would go to waste as they tried to be a little too cute while Murray would deny their best opportunity. The Findlay line once more to the fore and Leipsic made a drop pass to the trailer on the play, Campbell but Murray swallowed up the shot from the top of the blue paint.
Wilkes-Barre may look back at a couple of missed chances to extend their lead to three.
Jarrett Burton denied by a fine glove save after a nice play that began behind Toronto’s net.
With five minutes to play, Toronto were guilty of yet another cheap turnover and with hindsight the huge glove save by Bibeau to rob Mouillierat would prove decisive.
Toronto were looking for a spark early in the final frame and it came from an obvious source just 34 seconds in.
He may have gone three points without registering a point but T.J Brennan brought his team within one with an accurate shot that seemed to deceive Murray through traffic. It may not have been a trademark blast but it mattered not.
The officials somehow then contrived to send Toronto on the penalty kill, making a call which infuriated Sheldon Keefe. The PK stood stall and the Marlies as one, went about searching for a tying goal with gusto.
Another fine pass from Leipsic, this time a reverse feed to Findlay, allowed the latter to make a nice move into the slot but Murray stayed with the play and denied the effort.
The shots were reigning in on Murray once again, reminiscent of the opening period. Blue-liners Percy and Kolomatis releasing bombs from the point but despite scrambles in front, Toronto weren’t able to capitalise with second opportunities. Nylander would remain a frustrated figure after firing high from in tight but a following power play would break the Pens resolve.
Murray turned aside huge shots from Frattin and Brown before a third effort from Percy produced a rebound that flew up into the air. Tobias Lindberg settled the puck down expertly, dishing off to Leipsic who produced a wonderful cross crease feed to Brown.
He might have been falling backwards and on one knee but Brown smashed the puck past Murray to tie the game at two with ten minutes remaining.
Toronto penalty kill would have to come to the rescue to keep the game tied and thirty seconds later at even strength, the Marlies used that momentum to take the lead.
Hyman carried the play through the neutral zone but lost possession near the opposition bench as WBS went for a change. Not giving up, Hyman won the battle for the loose puck and chipped it forward to Nylander. The Swedish forward had lots of help around him but decided to snipe home short-side, in off the post to finally beat Murray. There was no chance of Toronto letting their opponents of the hook and scored a fourth straight goal with a little under four minutes remaining.
A turnover allowed Rinat Valiev to find Hyman at the red line and with four WBS players the wrong side of the puck, Hyman sped as quickly as he could toward the net. Joining him on the rush was Brett Findlay and Hyman dished him an impeccable pass at the perfect moment for the easiest of tap-ins to secure the victory.
It would have been 5-2 but for the brilliance of Murray who stonewalled Brown.
Pittsburgh’s affiliate never looked like mounting a comeback and such was the Marlies dominance, WBS weren’t even able to pull Murray for the extra attacker.
Post Games Notes:
The comeback kids did it once again and own a record of 5-5-1-0 when trailing after two periods.
Brett Findlay tallied his third goal in two games and his line proved the most effective offensive threat throughout the game.
For the second time in his career, T.J Brennan hit the twenty goal mark. A truly remarkable achievement and he’s now only one point shy of 50.
William Nylander went pointless in the recent trip to St. John’s but he bagged a goal and an assist in this game.
Zach Hyman has proved himself enough to end up on Toronto’s top line. For the second time this season he bagged three assists and all of these were primary helpers.
Antoine Bibeau won’t receive the plaudits for his 28 save performance, over-shadowed by Murray’s brilliance. However, some excellent stops, especially in the second period, ensured the game was still close enough to allow the comeback.