With attention mostly focussed elsewhere in Toronto, the Marlies were looking to finish their weekend on a high after suffering two reverses.
The Rochester Americans were the opponents for this 5pm start on Sunday – Toronto’s last home game of the regular season.
The Amerks have held the upper hand in the season series and they looked to continue in that vein during the opening twenty minutes.
It was almost a calamitous start as Justin Holl lost an edge behind the goal line just a minute in. Thankfully Kasimir Kaskisuo was alert to the danger – making a pair of saves to deny Derek Grant.
Frederik Gauthier fired high on Toronto’s only real sighting as the teams played at a high tempo with the first whistle not being blown until eight minutes had elapsed.
The home team may have registered 15 shots on goal but only Dmytro Timashov tested Rochester’s rookie goaltender and Jonas Johansson was upto the task at hand at this occasion.
The game changed complexion inside the final six minutes of the period with the visitors netting twice in 93 seconds.
Cole Schneider opened the scoring on the power play with a strong drive to the net from the left wing.
A goal that owed as much to his determination and skill as Toronto’s failure to allow him so much space.
The Marlies somewhat fell to pieces following a failed penalty kill and gifted the Amerks a 3-on-1 break.
Nick Baptiste doesn’t require a second invitation to shoot and though Kaskisuo made the first save, the Finnish netminder was helpless as Justin Danforth followed up to record his second of the season.
Toronto should have cut the deficit in halve late in the period after a turnover presented Seth Griffith possession in the slot. His shot on the turn wasn’t his best effort and Johansson was able to make a pretty regulation left pad save.
The two points on offer could easily have been in the bag for Rochester had they taken chances inside the first five minutes of the middle frame. Two odd man rushes proved fruitless for the visitors as Kaskisuo turned aside Baptiste and Jean Dupuy.
Totally against the run of play, Toronto got themselves on the board and changed the course of the game. Andreas Johnsson and Griffith moved the puck with speed and conviction before teeing up Andrew Campbell on a backdoor play for the Captain’s sixth goal of the season.
The home team had found their legs now and the shift that followed almost saw them net a second.
In the melee that followed the whistle, Justin Vaive took offence to Rich Clune bumping the goaltender and tossed the Toronto forward to the ice. Clune responded and the pair dropped the gloves. With Daniel Muzito-Bagenda also called for a penalty on the play, the home team headed on the power play.
The Marlies made the visitors pay for their poor discipline, as Mike Sislo finished from low in the left circle on a feed from Kerby Rychel.
The tide had truly turned by this stage and a mere 49 seconds elapsed before Toronto scored a third.
Brendan Leipsic picking up a pass not intended for him and made no mistake with a terrific finish between the pads of Johansson
A whole host of penalties followed and some four on four action ensued.
Kaskisuo had been a passenger since the opening five minutes but would be called upon to make a fine save to deny a redirection in front from Danforth.
The telling moment of the game occurred with four minutes of the second period remaining.
Dupuy was allowed to drive down the left wing and cut past Campbell despite the presence of two other Marlies players.
Kaskisuo bailed out his team-mates with yet another vital save and Toronto promptly went and scored on a rush.
Speeding down the middle of the ice, Holl took a pass from Rychel across the blue line and headed straight for goal. After cruising past two Amerks defenseman, Holl cut across the crease and beat Johansson to give Toronto a two goal lead.
After all the drama of the middle frame, Sheldon Keefe would have been happy with the opening ten minutes of the third period – Toronto allowing just two shots against.
Rochester’s push to try and claw something from this game occurred in the final six minutes.
Kaskisuo denied Schneider from netting his second of the game but a defensive lapse would allow the visitors to draw within one.
Justin Bailey applied the finish to a nicely worked move from the visitors but more poor discipline from Rochester looked to have cost them a chance to tie up proceedings.
With Tim Kennedy in the box, the Marlies only had to show composure to secure victory.
Leipsic should have killed the game off when finding himself alone in front but Rochester dodged that bullet and were gifted a late lifeline.
Holl taking an unnecessary penalty with 47 seconds remaining enabled the visitors to go for broke with six skaters on the ice.
It so nearly worked for the Amerks, with Kaskisuo scrambling to pull out a pair of saves in the dying moments of the game to ensure victory.
A win that ensures Toronto at least second place in the North and edges them closer to winning the division.
Post Game Notes:
Toronto finish with a 24-11-3 record on home ice.
The Marlies struggled during this season series on the whole, posting a 4-5-1 record against their cross border rivals.
Dependent on how Syracuse fare, three points in the final two games against St. John’s, will secure Toronto the North Division title.
Mike Sislo netted his eighth goal in just 17 games for Toronto.
Brendan Leipsic’s tally takes him to 49 points for the season.
Kerby Rychel and Seth Griffith both registered a pair of assists.
Offense from the blue line has been a factor in the Marlies push for the playoffs. Andrew Campbell and Justin Holl scoring their 6th and 8th goals of the season respectively.
Colin Greening was a healthy scratch to allow Rich Clune to get in some action.
Sheldon Keefe noted that the team came through the weekend unscathed injury wise.