The one that got away.
The Toronto Marlies will certainly fell that way as they fell to the Devils on the road in Albany.
They were seconds away from victory in regulation, found iron instead of twine and numerous power play opportunities went to waste. This was the sorry story for Toronto who also found Scott Wedgewood in very determined form.
Joseph Blandisi would be in the action throughout and made his presence felt inside the opening minute. After the first stoppage in play, the Albany forward went after Brendan Leipsic, looking to engage in the physicality stakes from the get-go.
Just ten shots would be registered in the opening twenty minutes but it was Toronto who had the better chances to strike first.
Sam Carrick let fly two and a half minutes in but Wedgewood held firm, denying a second opportunity.
Another effort from Justin Holl at the blue line whistled past the post and Josh Leivo so nearly pounced on the rebound from the back boards.
An opening power play for the Marlies would prove fruitless and seconds after it expired, Matt Lorito would only be denied by the mask of Bibeau, after taking a shot from the high slot.
Nick Lappin and Lorito once again, would test Bibeau in quick succession, as Toronto’s goaltender was facing some rubber after a slow beginning.
A second power play for Toronto would open the scoring. Unfortunately it was those wearing red who found the net.
Connor Carrick coughed up the puck in the offensive zone, allowing Mike Sislo and Rod Pelley a 2-on-1 break.
Sislo made the play to Pelley who kicked the puck into the net, but the official behind the net was vehement the goal should stand. It looked a clear kicking motion to my mind but video review isn’t allowed for such things in the AHL and Albany had themselves a 1-0 lead.
Toronto were still on the power play and Kasperi Kapanen had a great chance from the slot but failed to get enough on the shot to beat Wedgewood.
Albany’s first man advantage would result in a short-handed chance for Frederick Gauthier.
Wedgewood doing incredibly well to hold onto the low shot with Rich Clune driving the net looking for the rebound.
The final six minutes of the first period would pass without a shot on net, despite some four-on-four play to finish proceedings.
It would take almost four minutes for Toronto to record their first shot of the middle frame but it was well worth the wait. Stuart Percy did well to keep the puck inside the offensive zone and promptly threw it on net. Blocked in front, Josh Leivo picked up possession and with not much else on, he seemed to take Wedgewood by surprise with a lot shot that trickled in via the goaltenders right pad.
The Marlies were excellent in the second period and really deserved to be leading after forty minutes of play.
Another power play almost put the road team in front. T.J Brennan wasting little time in firing an effort on net and Leivo so nearly put home the rebound. The latter would take the next shot from the left circle, but Wedgewood flew to his right to ensure the game remained tied.
Back at even strength Ben Smith would be denied from the slot after fine set-up play from his two line mates, Leipsic and Carrick.
A backhand attempt from Max Novak tied the shots at ten a piece at the midway mark of the game but Bibeau was becoming somewhat of a passenger.
The remaining ten minutes were all Toronto as they swarmed all over the home team.
Andreas Johnson had certainly found his stride in the second period and tested Albany’s netminder with a pair of efforts from the left circle.
The best opportunity fell to Connor Brown after Albany contrived to turn the puck over cheaply, allowing the Marlies a 2-on-0 break. Brown went alone, trying to go backhand on Wedgewood who made a fantastic right pad save while falling backwards.
Zach Hyman would have two real good opportunities in as many minutes but he would also be denied.
Firstly a one timer on a set-up by Nylander brought another top save, with Wedgewood not able to see the shot until late through traffic.
The next was on a rush after a rare save from Bibeau to stop Blandisi. With space afforded on the rush, Hyman drove to the net but his backhand attempt as he cut across Wedgewood would be stopped.
Kapanen will wonder how he failed to score on his game. Viktor Loov sent the winger away down the right with a perfect pass, but Kapanen’s attempt to go top shelf were thwarted.
Only a late penalty taken by Stuart Percy would stop the assault and meant Toronto would begin the third period on the penalty kill.
Toronto would not give up a single shot while down a man and Albany looked more threatening at even strength.
Blandisi and Novak both testing Bibeau inside the opening three and a half minutes of the third period.
The Devils penalty trouble would begin shortly after those chances, as their overly aggressive play gave the officials little choice.
The first powerplay saw a Brennan shot create a huge rebound but Mark Arcobello wasn’t close enough to the net to take advantage of the half empty cage to fire into.
Kapanen’s then rang his effort off the left post of Wedgewood, seconds before the penalty expired.
A second consecutive power play would follow and one glorious opportunity was created.
Leivo delivered a pinpoint centering pass to Arcobello, who somehow fanned on the shot.
A mere five seconds after the man advantage had been lost, William Nylander took matters into his own hands.
Releasing a snipe shot from just inside the top of the right circle, which whistled past Wedgewood top shelf to put Toronto up 2-1.
Timed at exactly 8:30, the Marlies could not afford to take their foot off the gas and for the most part kept Albany out of their zone, or to the outside when the home team were able to cross the blue line.
A sixth power play was negated by Justin Holl taken a penalty, and after negotiating a shortened kill, Toronto only needed to keep Albany at bay for under three minutes.
That task appeared even easier when Sislo was called for slashing with the clock showing 18:26.
Wedgewood was pulled for the extra attacker with 50 seconds to go, but this time the Marlies appeared to lose focus, with too many players coasting.
Albany made them pay as Damon Severson was afforded way too much space from the point and blasted an uncontested shot on net which presented a rebound for Lappin to put home with 21 seconds to play.
A second short-handed goal for Albany and this game was headed to overtime.
Toronto were still on the power play carried over from the third but momentum was very much with the home team who killed the remaining seconds with ease.
The Marlies best chance to claim game three came during a period of four-on-four play.
A 2-on-1 break with Nylander finding Hyman, who fired his one time effort back against the grain but Wedgewood made yet another fantastic save despite moving the wrong way.
With eight minutes to play we witnessed a talking point that didn’t feature any goal mouth action.
Facing the wall, Percy was looking to corral the puck but was slammed into the board from behind by Blandisi. The “hit” forced Percy to hit the wall head first and he lay motionless on the ice for a while before finally able to leave the ice under his own steam.
The defenseman would not return and the officials deemed the hit wasn’t worthy of a penalty.
Not the first bad decision during this series and doubtless the last.
Still doubtless reeling from that, Toronto were thankful to Bibeau for making a huge save on Reid Boucher. The Albany forward escaped on a breakaway but would be turned aside by the right pad of the Quebec native.
Still the Marlies would have one last chance to win this game. An eighth power play would lead to an excellent one time opportunity for Leipsic but he fanned on the shot.
As quickly as the man advantage expired, Toronto were on the penalty kill and it took just twelve seconds for Albany to score the winner.
Disappointingly missed assignments allowed Brian O’Neill to shoot too easily from the high slot and when the block came it would only be to the Marlies detriment. The deflection fooled Bibeau, who was still able to make the save but was unable to prevent the rebound falling to Lappin who proved Albany’s OT hero.
Toronto Marlies 2- Albany Devils 3 OT
Post Game Notes:
Special teams were again key.
Toronto were 0/8 on the power play and allowed two short-handed goals.
Albany tallied once on their four power play opportunities.
This was the first occasion Toronto had allowed two short-handed goals in a playoff game.
Josh Leivo’s goal was his first of the 2016 playoffs.
Antoine Bibeau made 36 saves.
Andreas Johnson made his debut and grew into the game, especially prominent in the middle frame.
A good chance he keeps his place in the line-up.
Toronto’s all time record when trailing 2-1 in a playoff series is 2-2. Both victories were attained in seven games.