Rinat Valiev the unlikely hero as Marlies prevail in overtime
Searching for their 20th win of the season, the Toronto Marlies blew a two-goal lead in the third period.
In what was a penalty-ridden final twenty minutes of regulation time, Syracuse pulled themselves within one with an early powerplay marker.
Matt Taormina fired a shot that weaved its way through traffic in front to find the roof of Antoine Bibeau’s net. Trailing 3-2 with 17 minutes left to play, Syracuse were swarming over the Marlies. Bibeau had to make three straight saves to keep the lead intact, and the pressure was only relieved when the Crunch were called for too many men.
Toronto’s powerplay failed to tally and they were quickly back on the penalty kill.
Surviving on this occasion, the Marlies tried to pull away from Syracuse again. After Loov was denied, Kapanen was called for slashing. A slightly dubious call was made worse as Toronto were then called for too many men. The 56-second five on three seemed to last much longer than that, but the Marlies were indebted to Campbell and Carrick, who blocked shots like their lives depended on it.
One final save from Bibeau killed the penalty, but Toronto were gassed and wouldn’t really get themselves going until five minutes left to play.
Nylander was the beneficiary of a turnover behind the Syracuse net, but Andrei Vasilevsky produced a superb save to deny Nylander’s backhand effort out in front. Syracuse threw caution to the wind and Bibeau once again had to be alert in making two sharp saves to his left. The Crunch were urged on by an expectant crowd and they duly delivered with just over two minutes remaining in regulation play.
Waived off initially after carnage in the crease, Syracuse were credited with a tying goal after a video review, with Cameron Darcy scoring the first of his professional career.
The long break for the dry scrape before overtime probably favoured a Toronto team who needed to regroup after a period in which they spent little time at even strength and were outshot 17-9.
Bibeau twice denied Jeff Tambellini as the home team fired the first pair of efforts in overtime.
They were the only shots the home team would register as the Marlies started to control the play.
Nylander was turned aside by Vasilevsky once again, but the goaltender — like Bernier, in the AHL on a conditioning stint — could do nothing about the winner. Kasperi Kapanen fired a wicked wrister that could not be held onto and Rinat Valiev, of all people, was on hand to finish off the game winner.
The first period was more reminiscent of the Marlies play we’ve been accustomed to of late.
They were dominant on possession, and fired five shots inside the first five minutes, with Leivo’s effort producing a rebound that somehow eluded Panik and Nylander in front.
Syracuse’s first real rush on goal produced the opening goal at 4:51.
Bibeau made a couple of sharp saves, but his teammates failed to clear in front of him. Tye McGinn slapped home the loose puck to send stuffed animals onto the ice as it was Teddy Bear Toss night in Syracuse.
Toronto responded through Andrew Campbell, but his booming shot produced another rebound that slipped past Marlie forwards ready to pounce.
Bibeau was looking more like the goaltender we remember from earlier this season, producing one particularly sharp kick save on Mike Angelidis.
If that was a good save, it was nothing like the ridiculousness to follow from Vasilevsky on a Marlies powerplay. After Kapanen fanned on a great chance, Leipsic found himself backdoor with the net open but the Crunch netminder produced an unbelievable splits save to keep his team in front.
Toronto would not be denied on the next man advantage, however, as Nylander caressed the puck into the wheelhouse of TJ Brennan, who smashed home the tying goal from the top of the right circle.
Timed exactly at 15 minutes, it took just 66 seconds for the Marlies to take the lead.
Leipsic fed Carrick as he entered the Crunch zone with speed, and although his shot was saved, Matt Frattin was able to fire home over the pad of Vasilevsky from an acute angle.
It wasn’t long before it was a 3-1 advantage for the road team.
During four on four play, it was Leipsic playing architect again, this time finding Andrew Campbell, who measured a perfect shot from between the hashmarks to give Vasilevsky no chance.
Anthony DeAngelo set up Matthew Peca with a great feed, but Bibeau produced another wonderful save to preserve the two-goal advantage.
A late penalty called in the first started a chain of ill-discipline from Toronto that followed into the second and beyond.
It was the Marlies who almost scored shorthanded though, as Carrick came close before Vasilevsky, who lost his stick on making the save from Carrick, went chasing his twig and almost allowed the visitors to score into the gaping net, recovering in the nick of time.
With the penalty killed, Kapanen and Frattin were the next to bring the best out of Vasilevsky.
It could and probably should have been 4-1 at the six minute mark. Yet another blast from Captain Campbell resulted in a huge rebound, giving Carrick a fair chunk of the net to aim at from the right side, but he failed to hit the target.
Despite owning a good share of the possession, Toronto were unable to generate much in the way of scoring chances from that point on.
T.J Brennan did not have his best game defensively, and he was indebted to his netminder for bailing him out with three minutes to play. Joel Vermin beat him with ease to a loose puck on the left side before driving to the net. He went across Bibeau, looking to slide the puck back through the five hole, but the Toronto netminder was not to be beaten on this occasion.
Credit the Syracuse Crunch for the comeback in the third, but this Toronto team keeps finding ways to win.
Post Game Notes
– Antoine Bibeau made 32 saves for the win and this was a well-needed confidence boost for him after losing two straight in St. John’s.
– TJ Brennan’s marker gives him outright lead in goals among defenceman and places him in a tie for points by a defenceman.
– Andrew Campbell now has seven goals on the year. When you consider he had only 16 in his previous seven seasons, this is some feat, and there’s more to come offensively.
– Two assists for Brendan Leipsic and a team-leading five shots. He’s an enigma at times, but his recently-assembled line alongside Carrick and Frattin is proving more of a threat with each games that passes.
– Rob Madore backed up Antoine Bibeau, keeping Jonathan Bernier fresh for his last game in a Marlies uniform Sunday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum as Toronto face divisional rival Utica for the second time this weekend.
– The Marlies’ 20 wins (in 26 games) on the season leads the AHL, as does their twelve on the road.
– The one-hundred goal mark was broken in tonight’s win, but Texas currently lead the way with 103 goals for, one more than Toronto.
Marlies Player Stats – Toronto 4 vs. Syracuse 3 (OT)