With Freddie Gauthier and Josh Leivo emergency recalls for the Leafs, the Toronto Marlies were truly down to the bare bones.
After having to dress James Martin as a forward Friday night, Tylor Spink was signed to an ATO and went straight into the line-up. The former graduate of Colgate University isn’t a total unknown with Sheldon Keefe having coached against him when the right winger played for the Cornwall Colts.
Despite the lopsided and depleted looking line-up, the Marlies will feel they should have taken a least a point from a game which they held the lead on three occasions.
It would prove to be a tale of special teams, turnovers and little help in front for Antoine Bibeau as the visiting Providence Bruins showcased their offensive abilities.
A strong start from the Marlies resulted in them opening the scoring just over three minutes into the game.
It wasn’t pretty but the score sheet never cares about that, as a shot from John Kurtz banked in off the arm of Eric Faille. A video review was required to prove the legibility of the goal that other officials may have not awarded.
Providence were limited to just one shot as Toronto went on the power play at the 6:44 mark.
The Bruins special teams are tremendous and their fourth ranked penalty kill shut down the Marlies with ease.
The visitors finally got going at the midway point of the first period. A booming shot from Matt Irwin bringing a shoulder save from Antoine Bibeau, with Brendan Leipsic on hand to make sure the puck didn’t end up floating in behind his goaltender.
With a little over eight minutes of the opening period remaining, Toronto thought they had made it 2-0. Tobias Lindberg with an excellent drive down the right before dishing a gorgeous cross ice pass to Leipsic waiting backdoor, who sent his effort top shelf. For all the world it looked as if the puck had hit the top of the net and bounced out, but play continued.
An outlet pass from Stuart Percy would send Brett Findlay on a partial breakaway but Zane McIntyre made a fine save to turn him aside. An icing call would finally give the officials the chance to take a look at Leipsic’s possible goal but despite replay’s showing it to be a goal, those who mattered determined it wasn’t
Providence jumped on their piece of good fortune by scoring the tying goal shortly after on the power play. Brandon DeFazio redirecting a shot in front which gave Bibeau no chance.
To Toronto’s credit they bounced back immediately and Faille won a battle behind the Bruins net before teeing up Brett Findlay who would be denied from the slot.
The Marlies would regain the lead as Mark Arcobello and Lindberg combined, though not as they may have initially intended but the former would rifle home from the high slot.
Kasperi Kapanen and Rich Clune came close to making it 3-1 but seconds later it would be a tied game once again. DeFazio turning defense into offense with a stretch pass to send leading scorer Frank Vatrano alone on net. The rookie beat Bibeau all ends up and but in a commotion that followed the goal, Vatrano, Clune and DeFazio would all end up in the box for roughing.
Toronto would be unable to take advantage and the game remained deadlocked heading into the middle frame.
If the Marlies edged the first period then the second most definitely belonged to the Bruins, who should have held a lead after 40 minutes of play.
Not even ninety seconds in and Alexander Khokhlachev broke away alone on Bibeau but the goaltender denied him with a smart poke check.
After a spell of four-on-four play, it was the visitors who began to assert themselves, albeit assisted by Toronto’s inability to clear their zone. Despite a pair of fine saves from Bibeau, Toronto would take their second penalty of the game and once again the Bruins struck. Playing with fire, the Marlies tried to be fancy instead of just clearing their zone and paid the price. Gifting possession to the visitors, a shot from DeFazio was redirected in front by veteran Max Talbot through the legs of Bibeau.
A following power play from Toronto was a better effort and with a little more puck luck they may have tied the game up. Instead they caught a break as Anton Blidh was sent on a breakaway on exiting the box. Thankfully Bibeau came up huge with the save to keep the deficit to one.
The errors kept coming from the home team and another presented the Bruins with a 2-on-1 break but Bibeau made a blocker save on Colin Miller’s blast from the right circle.
Khokhlachev would receive his second breakaway chance of the period with six minutes left but yet again he would be denied by Toronto’s goaltender with a fine stop going to his right.
The Marlies would go to the penalty kill for the third time but would come through unscathed on this occasion, using that momentum to tie the game with 1:37 of the second period to play.
T.J Brennan with a superb outlet pass off the left boards took out a Bruins defensemen and found Faille. Electing to look for a team mate, his drop pass found Findlay, who chose to wait before shooting through the legs of the covering defensemen which seemed to fool McIntyre. It delighted Findlay who duly celebrated in some style.
Toronto were fortunate to be tied at three heading into the third period but began the final frame well and scored inside five minutes. A shot from Kapanen caused consternation in the Bruins ranks with McIntyre feeling he was impeded by Clune. Sam Carrick took control of the situation from behind the net and scored with a wraparound attempt past a defensemen on the line, with the Bruins goaltender still pleading his case to the officials.
Providence responded to falling behind by scoring twice in a three minutes span and could have had more in truth.
Another poor piece of play from the Marlies inside their own zone allowed Miller another opportunity to let loose. His shot was redirected by DeFazio, which beat Bibeau despite the second touch slowing the puck down significantly.
Clune would miss a great chance from the slot before the Bruins would tally what would turn out to be the game winner.
Brennan guilty of turning the puck over and Colton Hargrove’s shot from the point was helped in via yet another redirection in front, this time from Austin Czarnik.
Despite trailing 5-4, there was still plenty of time for Toronto to answer back and they would in fact spend the majority of the last seven minutes on the power play.
Special teams would prove decisive to the end as the Marlies just couldn’t find a way to solve the Bruins penalty kill. One fine glove save by McIntyre to rob Leipsic and Kapanen fanning on a huge rebound were the only opportunities of note as Toronto fell short of gaining the one point they required to secure a playoff berth.
The only good news later that evening was a playoff spot was ensured with Rochester’s defeat in Binghamton.
Post Game Notes:
Eric Faille recorded his first multi-point game of his short AHL career with a goal and an assist.
T.J Brennan took his points total to 62 and is just four shy of the overall lead. His pair of assists gives him 40 for the season but some of the play in his own end was poor in this game
Sam Carrick scored his sixth goal in as many games.
Mark Arcobello missed the last two games last weekend and his presence was sorely missed.
A 23rd goal of the season for him and he’s riding a three game point streak.
Tylor Spink wasn’t given a whole ton of ice time after playing Thursday and Friday night for Toledo Walleye with travel mixed in. Difficult to imagine him featuring during Sunday’s game.
Antoine Bibeau will doubtless receive some flack after allowing five goals but apart from the fourth, which even he himself would want back, he wasn’t given a great deal of support. One breakaway goal and four others being redirections in front of his crease.