The Toronto Marlies poor form on the road continued, as they threw away a huge lead after an excellent first period performance.
They weren’t so much sucker-punched in Syracuse, as capitulated against a Crunch line-up depleted through injury and call-ups.
The first twenty minutes gave no indication as what was to follow as Toronto dictated and controlled the flow of the game.
Kasperi Kapanen almost opened the scoring inside the opening seconds and from the ensuing face-off, Kerby Rychel fired just wide and Rinat Valiev brought a save from Kristers Gudlevskis.
The first goal wasn’t long in coming – with just 3:41 on the clock as Colin Greening drove forward across the blue line.
Cutting from right to left across the ice, the veteran forward would eventually round the net, drawing a crowd in the process, and made the heads up play to find Kapanen waiting backdoor. It was the Finnish forward’s easiest goal of the season thus far to put Toronto up 1-0.
Colin Smith should have done better than to fire weakly after good work from Tobias Lindberg and it was the fourth line who almost doubled the lead.
Marc-Andre Cliché leading the rush before dishing off to Rich Clune. The latter spotted Trevor Moore as the trailer on the play, laying the puck on the rookie’s tape but Gudlevskis denied what would have been a pretty goal.
More offensive zone pressure drew the first penalty of the game but it was short-lived as Dmytro Timashov showed poor discipline to even things up.
Adam Erne almost scored on a wraparound but Toronto would increase their advantage when play resumed at 5 vs. 5.
Brendan Leipsic with strong work along the right wall before finding Byron Froese waiting backdoor.
Froese was all alone thanks to Timashov creating havoc in front of net, and the centreman had the easy task of only needing to hit the target.
Toronto would draw two further power plays to end the first period but were unable to capitalise due to overcomplicating matters and a smattering of good saves from Gudlevskis.
The Marlies would be indebted to Antoine Bibeau who made a terrific save to deny a short-handed breakaway from Joel Vermin.
After playing as fine a period on the road all season, Sheldon Keefe would have been looking for some consistency from his team heading into the middle frame.
What ensued was madness and doubtless infuriating for the Marlies coaching staff, as three penalties were called in a span of 2:41 and four goals tallied in less than six minutes.
Erne was a constant threat to Toronto and drew a penalty 49 seconds in.
What followed immediately was a short-handed goal born of desire and sheer determination.
Rich Clune drove down the right side like a man possessed, crashing the crease behind the Syracuse defense, and despite being denied by a pad save, the rebound fell kindly for Greening to put the Marlies up 3-0.
Another penalty put Toronto down by two players for over a minute and it was a former Marlie who did the damage. Jeremy Morin was gifted too much time in tight to pick his spot and go bar down on Bibeau.
Cameron Darcy would have pulled the home team within a goal had Bibeau not denied him with an excellent glove save on another breakaway.
It only stopped the inevitable, as the Crunch would net another on the power play, thanks to a one-time effort from the right face-off dot by Vermin.
Back at even strength and it took a rampant Syracuse team a mere 35 seconds to tie the game at three.
Michael Bournival from the left side, with a low shot that beat Antoine Bibeau under his glove. It’s one he should have had and would really want back.
It’d take until the midway point of the second period for the Marlies to finally get their feet under them and halt the one-way traffic from Syracuse.
With seven minutes remaining, more clever play from Clune and Moore teed up Andrew Campbell pinching into the play but Gudlevskis made an excellent save to keep the scores level.
Toronto would re-take the lead with exactly five minutes to play in the second, Kerby Rychel netting his third of the season as the power play finally produced.
It took just 23 seconds for the scores to be tied once again. Matt Taormina with a low shot that appeared to be tipped or deflected in front but either way, he should never have been allowed so much space to measure his shot from between the circles.
The final twenty minutes Toronto’s produced, were more reminiscent of their poor play in Albany, as they allowed Syracuse to heavily out-work, out-play and out-shoot them.
Once the home team had killed another penalty heading into the third period, they took control and through fifteen minutes forced Bibeau into two excellent saves, hit the post and had several near misses.
Toronto made their cause no easier with Andrew Nielsen and Viktor Loov both taking undisciplined penalties.
The third period shot-clock favoured Syracuse 12-1 before Toronto finally notched their second effort of the frame, as Tobias Lindberg forced Gudlevskis into a fine low save after a long stretch of inactivity for the goaltender.
The final three minutes were certainly exciting as both teams exchanged rushes and chances but it was Syracuse who were handed another power play opportunity with 1:17 to play.
Toronto would hold firm to force overtime, securing a point in the process.
The Marlies proceeded to kill the penalty in extra hockey and really should have won the game.
Leipsic jumped out of the box as his penalty expired but failed to score on the breakaway after receiving an outlet pass. Toronto had possession deep in the Syracuse zone however and contrived not to score on three other golden opportunities.
It was almost inevitable that Syracuse would go onto win the game from that point and they did with defenseman Dylan Blujus netting his first of the season. It’s was with some justification that the home team were victorious, as they were by far the better team on the balance of overall play.
Post Game Notes:
Toronto have won only one of their last five games and are now 3-4-1-1 on the road.
After leading 12-5 and 24-15 in shots after twenty and forty minutes, Toronto would be out-shot 33-30.
Toronto’s record when leading after twenty minutes is now 6-3-0-0.
Kasperi Kapanen and Byron Froese both scored their ninth goal’s of the season.
Colin Greening put up a goal and an assist for his second multi-point game of the year.
Two primary assists for Brendan Leipsic takes his points tally to 21 and keeps him atop the AHL scoring race.
Brooks Laich and Milan Michalek were scratched, while Marc-Andre Cliché played just his second game of the season.
Frederik Gauthier and Travis Dermott are both injured.