Antoine Bibeau enables late third-period comeback

Trailing 2-1 with less than seven minutes to play, the Toronto Marlies needed yet another comeback.

Watching them, you never feel like they are truly beaten. You wonder if that factors into the thinking of the opposition, who know they are facing a team capable of almost anything.

The third period began with the teams tied at one goal a piece, mainly thanks to the brilliance of Antoine Bibeau, who had stopped 28 of 29 shots at that point.

The returning William Nylander found the trailing Viktor Loov 90 seconds into the period, but Tom McCollum was equal to the long-range effort.

Andreas Athanasiou was then the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce, but Bibeau held onto the shot to deny any second opportunity.

A high-sticking penalty from Casey Bailey put the Marlies under more pressure, but they survived with some fantastic work from both PK units.

That would be undone shortly afterwards as Toronto gifted the Griffins the lead.

William Nylander was guilty of being too casual in possession, gifting the puck to Anthony Mantha, who sped away and beat Bibeau with a wraparound attempt.

Toronto’s powerplay was not at its best in this encounter, failing to test Grand Rapids and almost providing the Griffins with two shorthanded breakaways in the process.

The tying goal came with 6:22 remaining after a concerted spell of puck possession. The line of Soshnikov-Gauthier-Morin combined with Brennan and Holl to pressure Grand Rapids in their defensive zone. Brennan eventually swapped sides and possession with Holl, and the latter drove to the net from the left side. Beating his man on the outside, Holl was able to sneak the puck past McCollum, and the goal stood despite there being a hint of interference on the play.

Upon resumption of play, the Marlies almost took an immediate lead with Mark Arcobello and Zach Hyman both unlucky to score in a goalmouth scramble.

Bibeau was called into making yet another huge save with three minutes left on the clock as the teams exchanged rushes like boxers throwing haymakers.

It was some hard graft that put Toronto ahead with 1:52 to play. Zach Hyman won a battle on the right boards against Andy Miele before shifting the puck to Rinat Valiev, who in turn found Arcobello. The latter’s shot brought a fine save from McCollum, but on hand was Hyman — who had driven to the net from the boards — to put home the rebound.

The victory was sealed shortly after the home team went for broke with the extra attacker. Ryan Rupert could have tried to shoot into the empty cage, but with two men back he choose unselfishly to square the puck for Brendan Leipsic. Lepisic had the easier chance and duly slotted home for a 4-2 win.

It was the Griffins who started better, controlling the majority of the play in the opening period. Tyler Bertuzzi drew a fine save from Antoine Bibeau 70 seconds in, setting the tone.
Just over a minute later, a giveaway handed the Griffins a 2 on 1 break. After a feed from Colin Campbell, Louis-Marc Aubry looked likely to score but Bibeau got just enough of his left pad on the effort to deny the five-hole effort attempt.

Anthony Mantha was the next to try his luck after a drop pass from Mark Zengerle, but Toronto’s goaltender gloved the snapshot.

William Nylander fired two shots in the opening eight minutes, with his second effort forcing McCollum into a sharp save.

After surviving a surge from the Marlies at the midway point of the period, it was the home team who took control, eventually outshooting Toronto 16-7 during the opening 20 minutes.

With Viktor Loov in the box for hooking, Grand Rapids moved the puck around quickly and with purpose, garnering two great chances. As Martin Frk found space on the right side, Bibeau — while contending with traffic in front — pulled off a wonderful glove save to deny what was an almost perfectly-placed wrist shot. Andreas Athanasiou’s deft pass then found Eric Tangradi, but Bibeau turned aside the redirect attempt.

Upon killing the penalty, the Marlies drew one of their own but fell behind in the process.

Allowing an oddman rush, Miele was the man leading the play, opting to shoot on a 2-on-1 and beating Bibeau comfortably. It was Grand Rapids’ first shorthanded goal of the season and the ninth Toronto has given up. It was almost two shorthanded goals shortly thereafter as Eric Tangradi was presented with a gift, but Bibeau and his right pad came to the rescue.

There was a flurry of chances inside the last minute, with Bibeau coming up huge to deny Tangradi and Tomas Nosek.

The middle frame featured plenty of action but somehow only a single goal was added to the scoreline. Frattin tried to set the tone with a wicked shot ten seconds before Toronto was indebted to Bibeau once again, who kept them within striking distance. He came up with huge save in front after turnover deep in the Toronto zone, while a rush from Nosek saw Bibeau turn aside a backhand effort.

Nikita Soshnikov hit the post after another good shift from his line, which consistently caused the home team problems throughout the game.

The Marlies penalty kill was required for the second time after some shenanigans drew a Grand Rapids powerplay before Toronto hit the iron again back at even strength, with Viktor Loov’s booming shot hitting the crossbar and bouncing away to safety.

The game was evened up at the 12-minute mark after a lovely move from the Marlies. Justin Holl’s reverse pass to Nylander presented the 19-year-old with many options open to available to him in the right circle. The least expected was a drop pass back to T.J Brennan steaming into the play late. Brennan wired home his 18th of the season from the top of the left circle.

Grand Rapids tried to respond through Mitch Callahan, but his backhand effort in tight was dealt with by Bibeau. Tyler Bertuzzi was the next player to hit the iron, with his shot finding the crossbar.

Almost against the run of play, Toronto came close to taking the lead with a few seconds remaining in the second period. Connor Brown showed patience with the puck as the defenseman made the sliding play. Eventually Brown found Brett Findlay, whose shot produced a rebound for Andrew Campbell that was sharply turned aside by McCollum.

Toronto improved their record to 8-2-1-0 when tied after forty minutes thanks to yet another comeback. The Marlies are a team for whom nothing seems like an impossible task.

Post Game Notes

– On the heels of Garret Sparks‘ spectacular shutout on Wednesday, Bibeau’s performance was as good despite giving up a pair of goals. It’s Bibeau’s 16th win of the season and his numbers are slowly getting into a range befitting of his play of late.

Justin Holl has returned to the lineup with a bang offensively. A tying goal and one assist in this game adds to the one helper he registered on Wednesday.

William Nylander was at fault for the Griffins second goal, but overall it was a very encouraging performance after a month off. You never know how an injury — especially of the concussion variety — might affect a player in his first few games back, but the extra patience with his return to action looked to have paid off.

– The T.J Brennan train just keeps on rolling down the track with a goal and an assist, extending his point streak to seven games. He sits a point behind Seth Griffin of Providence for the AHL scoring leader, with the latter only first place thanks to a five-point game against Springfield.

Mark Arcobello’s multi-point game streak may have been ended, but he still recorded one assist and was always a threat, firing a team-high five shots.

– Toronto’s road record now sits at 21-3-1-0.

– The Marlies have scored 98 goals on their travels and allowed just 53, almost outscoring opponents by a two-to-one margin.

Game Highlights

Marlies Player Stats — Toronto 4 vs. Grand Rapids 2

Campbell, AndrewD00010
Brennan, T.J.D11110
Morin, JeremyLW01112
Percy, StuartD00100
Hyman, ZachRW10120
Leipsic, BrendanLW10120
Rupert, RyanC01110
Gauthier, FrederikC00010
Arcobello, MarkC01050
Brown, ConnorRW01120
Findlay, BrettLW00110
Bailey, CaseyRW00002
Frattin, MattRW00010
Holl, JustinD11130
Loov, ViktorD00242
Valiev, RinatD01000
Nylander, WilliamC01-120
Soshnikov, NikitaLW00010