The Toronto Marlies four game win streak came to an abrupt halt at the hands of the North Division leaders.
Having won both of the previous games between these two teams so far this season, the Syracuse Crunch held the lead for a combined 47 minutes of this encounter to claim a third victory.
Back on home ice for the first time since January 14, Toronto were made to pay dearly for goaltending and defensive errors.
The Marlies were down by a goal with a mere 2:47 on the clock.
Cory Conacher finishing off from the slot after Syracuse missed one golden opportunity to open the scoring.
Just thirty seconds later and the visitors doubled their lead.
Garret Sparks gave up consecutive rebounds before Tanner Richard jammed the puck past him.
There had been nothing between the teams at that point but two mental lapses had allowed a clinical Syracuse team to leap ahead early.
Toronto responded positively and dominated the remainder of the first period.
It was a comeback initially kick-started by Frederick Gauthier of all players. The returning forward teed up Andreas Johnsson backdoor, but the Swedish winger was unable to provide the telling touch.
Gauthier then took matters into his own hands after the Marlies had won possession in the neutral zone. A rush down the right side entailed from the centre man but Adam Wilcox came up with the save.
A booming shot from Andrew Nielsen almost beat Wilcox but did provide a huge rebound that Trevor Moore came within inches of potting home.
The relentless pressure would result in Toronto getting on the board with nine minutes played.
Moments after Eric Faille so nearly jammed an effort past Wilcox from the side of the net, Dmytro Timashov redirected a shot from William Wrenn to halve the deficit.
Seth Griffith was making his home debut and so nearly tied proceedings during a scramble with eight minutes remaining.
Toronto would earn the first power play of the game – doing everything but score. Johnsson on two occasions, Griffith and Kerby Rychel all trying their luck without success.
The Marlies finally tallied their second goal with just 32 seconds left on the clock.
Griffith dangled his way from the right circle into the slot area. It appeared he would attempt to shoot backhand, but instead sent a reverse pass to Moore who gratefully tucked home his fifth of the season.
The teams would be locked at two a piece through twenty minutes, though Toronto were dominating the shot-clock 22-5 at this point.
Instead of feeding off a fantastic fifteen minutes of play that saw them fight back from a two goal hole, the home team gifted their opponents a go-ahead marker 42 seconds into the middle frame.
Viktor Loov was outworked below the goal line and coughed up possession in attempting a cute reverse pass. Erik Condra shovelled the loose puck to Mike Halmo with a diving play and the latter comfortable beat Sparks.
A power play for Toronto failed to spark them into action and almost led to a short-handed goal for Matthew Peca after a bungled zone entry by Johnsson.
The tide had certainly turned in favour of the road team who promptly earned their first chance on the power play just before the six minute mark.
Sparks made the two saves required of him and he would see a lot of action for the next ten minutes as Syracuse owned the lion’s share of possession and zone time across Toronto’s blue line.
Byron Froese would be unwisely cross-checked deep inside his own by Richard and Toronto would level the score on the resulting power play.
It was so nearly another short-handed goal for the visitors however, but Sparks denied Conacher following an odd man rush.
After surviving that near miss, Timashov found a lane to shift the puck to the waiting Griffith in the right circle. Everyone expected a shot, but the newest Marlies recruit sent a pass backdoor for Moore to score his second of the game.
Despite drawing level, Toronto were firmly on the back foot as Syracuse finished the second period with a spell of concerted pressure and began the final frame in similar fashion.
With Travis Dermott in the box just 28 seconds in, the Crunch set about solving the Marlies penalty kill.
The visitors best chance came during a mass scramble in front, which saw Sparks down and out and four Marlies players in the blue paint – bailing out their goaltender.
Unable to score with the extra man, it wouldn’t take long for Syracuse to re-establish their lead.
From the left circle, Conacher looked to make a play rather than shoot, but his intended pass bounced back to him off the shin pad of Wrenn. Conacher stabbed at the bouncing puck and it floated by Sparks, who really should have got a piece of the effort which beat him blocker side.
Toronto appeared spent and barely crossed the offensive blue line before the visitors once more increased their advantage to two. A shot from Conacher was guided wide of the net by the shaft of Sparks‘ stick. Never getting back into position properly despite adequate time to do so, Sparks was beaten by Kevin Lynch banking the puck off him from below the goal line.
Firing a measly five shots on net during the third period, a comeback never looked on the cards.
As the final minutes wound down, the only outcome in doubt was as to whether Conacher would tally a well deserved hat-trick with Toronto’s net empty.
He’d almost accomplish the feat, striking the post and several near misses but he’d have to settle for a brace and being the game’s first star.
Post Game Notes:
The 22 shots Toronto fired in the first period was a seasonal high for the opening twenty minutes.
Trevor Moore’s first multi-goal outing extends his points streak to five games.
Seth Griffith was the Marlies best player once again. His two assists continues his six game point streak since joining the team.
A goal and an assist for Dmytro Timashov, who now has five points in his last three games.
Garret Sparks recent good form vanished during this performance. He did make a handful of excellent saves but was culpable for at least two, if not three goals.
Travis Dermott’s solitary assist means he has a single helper in each of his last four games.
Having begun Saturday in a playoff berth because Utica fell to defeat Friday night, Toronto now fall back to fifth in the North Division with this loss.