It was never going to be an easy task on the road against the Providence Bruins.
They simply don’t accept defeat at home and were unbeaten in regulation during their last 22 games heading into this Saturday night tilt.
In truth Toronto were the better team for the majority of the game and should have been the team to claim the two points.
It was the fourth line led by Frederick Gauthier that set an excellent opening tone for the Marlies as they pinned the home team inside their own zone.
So much so that they were even able to instigate a change while doing so, but the first shot in anger on net was well held by Zane McIntyre between the pipes.
It would take just three and a half minutes for Toronto to reap the reward of their early dominance and take the lead for the second night running.
Toronto won the battle in the corner and Brendan Leipsic with the perfect feed to Matt Frattin who reminded us that he still owns a wicked shot, this time a snipe from one knee.
Providence tried to push back a little after the first time-out of the game but Sam Carrick’s line responded by proceeding to take back control and a second goal was forthcoming at the eight minute mark.
Kasperi Kapanen taking his time to measure a shot through traffic that flew over the shoulder of McIntyre.
It appeared as though if there was a third goal to be had in the opening period then it would fall Toronto’s way.
Eric Faille testing McIntyre after finding some space down the right while Leipsic and Carrick somehow failed to score in tight with the home team scrambling. Carrick would head down the tunnel for a while after taking a nasty looking hit down by the right boards but would re-enter the game, looking none the worse for wear.
Tobias Lindberg is playing with some confidence right now and gifted some room on the left he let loose the rocket of a shot he owns, only to see McIntyre equal to the effort.
A passenger for the majority of the first twenty minutes, Bibeau would not really be called into action until six minutes remaining with a smart double save to keep the lead intact.
A pair of matching penalties would see the period end with some four on four hockey but with the Marlies firmly on top. A blast from T.J Brennan would be grabbed at the second attempt while Connor Brown’s attempted tip from a Justin Holl shot was also turned aside.
Toronto will doubtless rue not taking chances created in the first ten minutes of the middle frame, as they maintained control of the game. An early turnover presented Andrew Campbell with possession in a promising position but his effort was well blocked. Josh Leivo hasn’t had much luck in front of net this weekend and he was denied from the slot after fine work from line-mates Brett Findlay and Brown behind the net.
For what seemed like the best part of two minutes, the Marlies once again owned possession in the Bruins zone, frustrating the home team and managing to get fresh bodies on even with the long change.
They were unable to find the net during that spell but Faille almost did so at the five minute mark.
His tenacious play saw him strip the puck off a defenseman in front of the Bruins net, but somehow McIntyre was able to get a tiny piece of his gear on the shot after looking down and out on the play.
Bibeau turned aside the first shot he faced sixty seconds later but back went Toronto, orchestrating an odd man rush. Frattin decided to ignore his team-mate and whistle a shot just wide of the far top corner in what was another missed opportunity.
The home team were beginning to find their feed, slowly but surely, forcing Bibeau into fine save from a wraparound attempt.
Once again the Marlies responded in kind, Findlay providing Leivo with another gilt edge chance in front but he was robbed by McIntyre one more.
A jaw dropping turnover from Brennan presented the Bruins with a gift in front of Bibeau, but Toronto’s goaltender made a quite incredible first save and watched in relief as the rebound was shot wide of the post.
The tide had turned and Providence were coming hard at the visitors now and would continue to do so for the final eight minutes.
Bibeau would be forced into 14 saves during the middle frame although he did have some fortune after misplaying the puck from behind his own net. The intended pass evaded Marlies players and fell to Colby Cave who contrived to miss the yawning cage before Bibeau could make it back between the pipes.
A wraparound attempt from Justin Hickman with ninety seconds remaining would be the home teams last real chance but Bibeau did well to cling on, despite being clearly hacked at after gaining control of the puck.
Toronto failed to heed the warning signs from the second period and were unable to stop the runaway train that was the Bruins in the final frame. Leading goal scorer Frank Vatrano had been kept fairly quiet up until this point but he orchestrated the play from the blue line that enabled Austin Czarnik to tee up Alexander Khokhlachev for his 17th of the season.
Some calm was needed to keep a rampant home team at bay but the Marlies gifted them a tying goal 78 seconds later. Holl would be guilty of pinching into the play and Providence were the beneficiaries of a 2-on-1 break. Brian Ferlin fed the cross ice pass to defenseman Colin Miller but Bibeau made a terrific initial stop. Unfortunately the puck fell back for Ferlin to tap home from the side of the net and the game was tied not even four minutes into the third period.
Eventually the visitors were able to calm the water a little but Toronto generated next to nothing offensively, though keeping Providence down to eight shots in the process.
Neither team had been afforded a power play until 8:41 to play when a high sticking on Leipsic presented Toronto with a double minor. The Bruins special teams are excellent and the Marlies never really looked like testing McIntyre.
The three man officiating crew had an interesting game to say the least and it was no surprise when the gave the Bruins a powerplay with four minutes to play. In fairness it was a reckless play by Brennan who should know better. The first shot fired at Bibeau fully tested him and those in blue did the rest by clearing the danger. Gauthier and Campbell would come up huge with brave shot blocks as the Marlies survived the penalty.
Toronto would garner the last best opportunity during regulation time but Leipsic and Smith couldn’t capitalise on a rebound out in front. On the same play Leivo was hammered to the ice after the whistle and it was somehow deemed not worthy of a penalty.
It would have meant Toronto being on the powerplay for at least 1:25 of overtime but it would only be 3-on-3 and Providence set about getting the extra point that obviously meant so much to them.
Bibeau was sharp to turn aside Czarnik, who was a constant thorn, and he raced away on net alone shortly after.
Brennan made a diving play to try and stop him but the Bruins forward got his shot away no problem.
Bibeau made the stop but the officials presented Czarnik with a penalty shot regardless.
A bizarre turn of events but some justice was done as Bibeau once more made a fine save away to his right to keep the game alive for his team.
Brown was doing his best to win it for Toronto though his first shot almost cost his team as McIntyre caught the puck and threw it forward sending the Bruins on an odd man rush.
Bibeau to the rescue again and back went the Marlies. Brown robbed by McIntyre, who had himself a fine game and should have earned a star in my opinion
It would be Ferlin to win it in overtime with his second goal of the game for Providence but Toronto will be wondering how they didn’t prevail in regulation.
Post Game Notes:
Antoine Bibeau made 35 saves and was unfortunate to take the loss.
Matt Frattin’s goal was his 30th point of the season.
Brett Findlay replaced an unwell Mark Arcobello in the line-up.
Josh Leivo had just two shots on net but both were fantastic chances from the slot. He’s a little snake-bitten since his return with one goal in six games.
With an assist on the second goal, Colin smith recorded his tenth point for Toronto, in just nine games