The Toronto Marlies fell to their twelfth defeat on the road this season but it wasn’t all their own doing in what was a particularly vicious game against a vindictive and physical Syracuse team.
The Syracuse Crunch took advantage of a three-man officiating crew, taking cheap shots and throwing nasty hits behind the play. The officials given this assignment, looked ill-equipped to handle a game which threatened to get totally out of hand during the second period.
Toronto certainly didn’t help themselves at times though and were a little fortunate to only find themselves behind by a solitary goal through twenty minutes.
The Marlies would begin brightly, drawing a power play but were unable to convert despite some good looks.
Kasperi Kapanen created the first opportunity at even strength. Working his way into the slot past two Syracuse players but Adam Wilcox made a fine save to deny Toronto opening the scoring.
Toronto were guilty of turning the puck over far too many times during the first period and it almost cost them six minutes in – Brian Hart smashing a shot against the crossbar.
The Marlies would head on the penalty kill shortly after, as a fair hit along the boards by Travis Dermott was deemed to be interference.
There would be no damage done despite Matt Taormina being allowed to surge down the heart of the slot – Antoine Bibeau denying the defenseman from adding to his impressive goals tally.
The second half of the first period was almost exclusively one-way traffic.
The home team were gifted space in the neutral zone and allowed to cross the blue line at will, creating numerous chances.
The only opportunity for Toronto came via a second power play but too many players were guilty of missing the target, with Byron Froese the only man to test Wilcox.
After failing to capitalise on so many excellent opportunities, Syracuse finally opened the scoring with 1:45 remaining.
Toronto iced the puck and would fail to touch it again before it was in the back of their net.
Tanner Richard winning the face-off and he would provide the screen that ensured Bibeau had no sight of Taormina’s shot as it found twine behind him.
Without a fantastic save from Bibeau to deny Yanni Gourde, it could have been worse for Toronto.
Toronto began the second period in the same vein as they finished the first and would concede just twelve seconds in.
Jeremy Morin from the right side firing over the shoulder of Bibeau, who was possibly screened by one his own players.
Three minutes later and the home team should really have pulled themselves further ahead.
Joel Vermin dished off to Matthieu Broduer in the slot, but the defenseman was too slow in pulling the trigger allowing Bibeau the time to slide across his crease and make the save.
Toronto required a spark and from nowhere they conjured a goal with a swift passing play.
Tobias Lindberg and Brendan Leipsic combining to tee up Froese, who finished top shelf.
The momentum of the game had changed and the Marlies almost immediately drew level.
Trevor Moore’s backhand wraparound attempt and Tony Cameranesi’s low shot both forced Wilcox’s into good saves.
Justin Holl was the next to try his luck, firing from a bad angle down the right side, forcing a rebound that Lindberg was unable to corral.
After pressure forced Syracuse into icing the puck, Toronto would tie up proceedings just three minutes after opening their account.
Cameranesi held possession under pressure behind the home team’s net and showed he strength and determination to shrug off the attention of his opponents.
Forcing his way to the front of the net, Cameranesi faked shooting short-side on Wilcox before going across the crease and sweeping home inside the far post.
With Froese in the box less than a minute after the tying marker, Toronto’s penalty kill would go back to work for the second time. Mike Halmo had the one lone chance for the home team as the Marlies held firm.
The game would take a decisive turn just after the midway point.
A line brawl ensued after some shenanigans and the officials were helpless and outnumbered.
Somehow Froese was deemed the most dangerous player, being held back by an official as he looked to help out Nielsen.
The rookie defenseman was being held by Richard and then in came Jake Dotchin as the third man.
After throwing an initial punch in-tight, the notorious goon followed up with a vicious looking uppercut which sent Nielsen crashing to the ice in a heap.
Incredibly Dotchin was only assessed two for roughing and the other penalty came courtesy of a bench minor, sending Toronto to a 5-on-3 power play.
The Marlies failed to set-up properly until the final thirty seconds of the two man advantage, when some pressure finally paid off. A mad scramble in front of the net somehow saw Leipsic and Nielsen fail to score. Just as the penalties elapsed, Leipsic received a pass from Nielsen and slapped home past Wilcox at what was then even strength for a 3-2 Toronto lead.
The penalties and controversy were far from done and all hell broke lose inside the final five minutes.
Justin Holl was nabbed for holding and another line brawl took place after a scrum in front of Bibeau. No further penalties would be assessed but Toronto would lose their best player during the penalty kill.
Kapanen was doing an excellent job pressing deep in the Syracuse zone during the kill, forcing an errant pass which he went to chase behind the net. Cue Dotchin back into the action, with a late, low hit which sent Kapanen careering into the boards. The Finnish winger was barely able to get to his feet, clearly unable to put any weight on his left leg.
Toronto survived that penalty but it was back to work almost immediately for the PK.
Andrew Campbell was assessed a cross-checking infraction despite appearing to be nowhere near a play that seemed to involve Holl.
Another mysterious and dubious call from the three-man crew.
It proved a costly decision, as Frank Corrado followed his fellow defensemen into the box, and Syracuse had 57 seconds of a two man advantage.
Taormina hit the post with a rasping shot before he tied the game by scoring his twelfth of the season.
There were yet more antics after the goal with Richard appearing to spear Froese before the teams reset for the face-off.
The pair were nabbed for roughing and two minutes a piece, the officials having totally lost the point at this stage and Syracuse still had over a minute of power play time.
The home team switched goaltenders for what must have been an injury concern over Wilcox – Kristers Gudlevskis taking over between the pipes.
Toronto would kill the penalty carried over from the middle frame but allowed a goal 85 seconds in.
A bad change allowed defenseman Daniel Walcott to surge alone on goal. Bibeau turned him aside but could do nothing to deny Gourde putting his team ahead.
With Brett Findlay in the box, Syracuse doubled their advantage with six minutes played.
Richard netting his eighth of the year after the puck had bounced in pinball fashion around the slot area.
A power play for the visitors looked to be their best chance of finding their way back into this game, but despite some good looks they had little luck in front of goal.
Lindberg hit the post and then redirected an effort agonisingly wide. A one-timer from Byron Froese forced Gudlevskis into a fantastic right pad save to deny Toronto pulling within a goal.
It was two of the younger Marlies players who combined to give them life with a little under ten minutes remaining. Moore winning the battle behind the net before teeing up Cameranesi for his second of the game.
After an earlier dubious call, Campbell was rightly tagged for a delay of game with six minutes left on the clock. This time the officials missed the cheap shot after the play, with Toronto’s captain absolutely furious with the officials as he was the only player to sit in the box.
Antoine Bibeau was terrific during the penalty kill, with a pair of great saves to deny Morin and Cory Conacher.
Toronto appeared exhausted as the clock ran down but would create a couple of opportunities in their bid to send the game into overtime.
Excellent work from Leipsic teed up Brett Findlay but the latter’s effort whizzed past the angle of post and crossbar from the slot.
A power play with 65 seconds remaining and Bibeau pulled from the net gave Toronto one final shot at salvaging at least a point.
The best chance fell to Cameranesi, but his one-time shot was denied by a simply wonderful right pad save from Gudlevskis.
Post Game Notes:
Now three games under .500 and with other results going against them, Toronto find themselves out of a playoff berth.
Toronto’s power play was 0/6 though Leipsic’s goal was scored before the two Syracuse players could influence the action out of the box. The Crunch tallied twice on seven opportunities.
Toronto were only able to dress five men on the blue line, Keefe only elaborating to say he had seven available on the trip and his intention was to play twelve forwards and six defenseman.
Kasperi Kapanen did not return to the game after the injury. Sheldon Keefe had no update for the media after the game but does not expect him to be available for Saturday’s game.
Tony Cameranesi scored twice, could easily have had a hat-trick and led the way with seven shots.
He’s a dynamic player and a bright spot in this current line-up.
A two point game for Brendan Leipsic despite not putting in one of his better performances of the season.
Frank Corrado assisted on two goals but was lucky to escape injury. He was the victim of two particularly vicious hits.
Byron Froese netted his 15th goal of the year. He’s just three short of his career best set during the 2014-15 season.