An ill-tempered second consecutive game in Albany, left Toronto with a depleted defense in the third period.
Neither team or the game itself, were really helped by a three-man officiating crew who performed as if way out of their depth.
Their decisions certainly seemed to favour the home team, enabling them to comeback from a two-goal deficit.
Albany were awarded their fourth straight power play three minutes into the third period, despite the protestations of Nikita Soshnikov.
Six seconds later, the Russian forward was skating out of the box after John Quenneville had scored to cut Toronto’s lead to 3-2.
Shortly after, Toronto suffered their first injury of the game.
Experienced forward Brian Gibbons deliberately took a run at Travis Dermott behind the play.
Gibbons escaped with two minutes for roughing, whilst the rookie defenseman headed to the dressing room and would not return.
The Marlies power play wasn’t able to make the home team pay and back at even strength, the Devils were intent on inflicting more pain.
Two Albany players double-teamed Andrew Campbell on the boards in what was a dangerous play and left Toronto’s captain crumpled on the ice.
The incident somehow left Toronto down by three men at this stage and having to kill a penalty.
Campbell headed down the tunnel, while Rinat Valiev had jumped in to protect his captain and was called for instigating, fighting and subsequently awarded a game misconduct.
The only Albany penalty handed out was for fighting. A truly mind blowing decision from the officials.
Toronto were now missing half of their defense and appeared completely rattled.
It looked inevitable that Albany would tie the game on the power play, which they duly did through Ben Sexton.
The penalties kept coming and less than a minute later, Byron Froese was tabbed for holding, in yet another absurd call.
Toronto would survive this penalty kill, in part due to some excellent saves from Bibeau.
Campbell would return to the bench but was clearly not 100% and would likely have had to convince the trainer that his team’s need was greater than his injury woe.
The officials would put their whistles away for a few minutes and to the Marlies credit, they responded by being the better team at even strength, holding possession in Albany’s zone for prolonged stretches.
The best chance was created by Campbell, but Trevor Moore, looking for his second goal of the game couldn’t quite stuff the puck past Mackenzie Blackwood.
With 52 seconds of regulation time remaining, the officials weren’t done making ridiculous calls, this time nabbing Albany’s Kevin Rooney for hooking.
The Marlies were unable to take advantage of their good fortune in regulations or overtime, and faced a penalty kill of their own during the extra period.
Neither team could score with the extra man and it was off to a shootout.
Toronto’s three shooters, Smith, Soshnikov and Kapanen all failed to score and the Marlies would fall to a lone strike by Quenneville.
Toronto never looked like building a two goal lead during the first period, having allowed the first six shots against and barely touching the puck inside the Albany zone during the opening skirmishes.
An early Marlies power play almost resulted in a short-handed marker for the home team but Blake Coleman was unable to apply the finishing touch on an odd man rush.
The first fight of the evening was between Rich Clune and Ben Thomson, who dropped the mitts after chatting up a storm before a face-off.
It took the visitors over seven minutes to register their first effort on net.
Plenty of hustle from Brendan Leipsic, who worked his way past two Devils players but watched his backhand shot padded away easily by Blackwood.
Two minutes later, Toronto finally found some space and speed through the neutral zone. Byron Froese the recipient of the puck in the Albany zone, but despite his shot producing a huge rebound, nobody wearing blue was on hand to take advantage.
A weird bouncing shot from Dymtro Timashov handcuffed Blackwood and almost beat the young goaltender, who was relieved to find the puck underneath him.
That was followed by Kapanen and Soshnikov combining, the former drawing a penalty on a play where the later almost scored with a backhand attempt.
Toronto were only able to set up once in the Albany zone and were indebted to their goaltender back at even strength.
Thomson teeing up Jan Mandat who was flat out robbed by a sprawling Bibeau. It was far from pretty by the Quebec native but a highly effective stick save.
The Marlies best shift of the opening frame resulted in them opening the scoring after 17 minutes.
Sustained offensive zone pressure resulted in a tired Albany team unable to clear and turning the puck over twice. Leipsic almost made them pay on one occasion, but ultimately another blast from Andrew Nielsen did the trick.
Another great screen in front from Tobias Lindberg, who wouldn’t receive a point on the play.
The lead would prove short-lived however.
Reece Scarlett found himself some space down the right and he wasn’t properly closed down by a tired Valiev. A powerful slapshot from the defenseman beat Bibeau glove side, who was possibly unsighted by his own player.
Toronto would create two further opportunities to end the period, both orchestrated by Leipsic, but the teams would be locked at one to begin the middle frame.
As they did on Friday, Albany came out firing in the second period, earning a power play 13 seconds in.
Bibeau denied Scarlett a second goal from the slot as the Marlies held on for dear life after being hemmed in their own zone.
Once able to clear their own end, Toronto struck a second goal.
Nielsen with the outlet feed to Leipsic on the left and the talented winger delivered a perfect saucer pass that split three Devils players. Receiving the puck on his stick was Froese, who wasted no time in firing a low through Blackwood’s five-hole.
A second fight of the game occurred between Joe Blandisi and Campbell, after Albany were upset about a hit laid by the Marlies Captain. It seemed insignificant compared to the events that would follow later in the game but the Devil’s main objectives appeared to include fighting at every opportunity.
Froese would go close on another opening for him but perhaps should have chosen another avenue than five-hole again as this time Blackwood was ready to turn the shot aside.
After surviving one close call and then killing a penalty, Toronto would take a 3-1 lead.
Rich Clune with one of his vest offensive shifts, resulted in a blast by Viktor Loov and a rebound tap-in from Trevor Moore.
The period finished with more chances, Albany hitting the crossbar and yet more absurd penalty calls and the Marlies up by two.
A lead they couldn’t ultimately hold on to.
Post Games Notes:
Antoine Bibeau made 31 saves and despite the loss, was a huge reason the Marlies earned at least a point.
Four fights in seven games and 54 penalty minutes for Rinat Valiev.
In his second season as a professional, the defenseman is taking it upon himself to drop the gloves when asked. He’s just not a very good fighter.
Andrew Nielsen had himself a goal and one assist, taking his tally to seven points in eight games.
Byron Froese notched his fifth goal the season.
Trevor Moore scored for the second consecutive game and is looking more at ease playing on his off-wing.
Special teams would ultimately prove the difference yet again.
Toronto scoreless on four opportunities, while Albany were 2/7.
Travis Dermott injury appeared to be to his right leg and Sheldon Keefe intimated the rookie was going to miss some time.