With the next three games of the series taking place in Albany, this was a must win for the Toronto Marlies.
Looking to come out firing after taking the loss in game one to the Albany Devils — the underdogs according to the 888sport hockey odds — it took 20 seconds for the returning William Nylander to try and make an impact, but his intended pass to Ben Smith waiting in the slot was deflected away. That was a close as the Marlies came in the opening eight minutes as Albany shut them down, limiting time and space in every zone.
Toronto were often careless in possession in the period, with Kapanen an early culprit as he gifted the puck away in his own zone. The saving grace was that it fell to noted enforcer Pierre-Luc Leblond, who Bibeau was able to turn aside with a right pad save.
When the Marlies finally got a step on the Devils defense, it was via a tic-tac-toe play that ended with Connor Brown forcing a good save out of Scott Wedgewood. From the resulting offensive zone faceoff, Viktor Loov coughed up the puck to Nick Lappin, who went speeding away down the right side. Loov chased him in vain and was thankful to Bibeau for the bail out.
Against the run of play, Toronto got on the board first just as their opening powerplay of the game expired. It was a better effort with the extra man as the Marlies tested Wedgewood far more than in game one. It was a simple play that did the trick; after Sam Carrick won the faceoff, Connor Carrick’s blast toward the net generated a rebound for Ben Smith to bang home.
As in game one, a tying goal wasn’t long in coming. Defenseman Dan Kelly’s booming one-timer from the blue line was inadvertently deflected by Stuart Percy past a helpless Bibeau.
A third goal in the space of just four minutes went the way of the Devils, and you couldn’t deny that they deserved to be out in front. Bibeau stopped Boucher’s effort from the slot, but seconds later the goaltender could only pad a shot from Kelly into the slot and Lappin won the battle in front to put home the rebound.
Toronto went to a second powerplay before the period was done after Blake Pietilla blatantly elbowed Josh Leivo in the head and was lucky to receive only two minutes in the box. Thankfully, Leivo was okay after heading down tunnel to be checked out, but Toronto couldn’t take advantage of the extra man. In fact, they were indebted to Bibeau as he denied Boucher on a shorthanded breakaway attempt.
The Marlies were outshot-15-9 in the opening frame and were fortunate to be only trailing 2-1.
The dislike for these two teams has been evident since game one, but the intensity ratcheted up in a manic middle frame that saw eight penalties assessed. The mood of both teams wasn’t helped by some poor officiating, with Rich Clune especially hard done by.
Albany should have increased their lead as early as 70 seconds into the second period, when Lappin was afforded a breakaway and Bibeau denied his five-hole attempt. A minute later, Joseph Blandisi was allowed to break down the right, with Bibeau again standing tall to smother the shot.
The officials conspired to miss a clear cross-check on Clune in the crease, yet T.J Brennan’s high-sticking offense was called seven minutes into the second. Just 34 seconds later, Blandisi embellished a supposed trip by Zach Hyman and Toronto were down by two men.
On the ensuing penalty kill, Reid Boucher had an empty net to fire at, hit the post and a furious scramble ensued. I’m not sure how — and probably neither does Bibeau — but Toronto escaped the melee in the crease unscathed and managed to kill both penalties.
The Ricoh crowd were miffed with the officials in game one and were incredulous at the next call made halfway through the period. Blandisi was given two for spearing, while his victim, Rich Clune, was called for embellishment — a ridiculous call, but T.J Brennan wasn’t worried as he fired home his third powerplay goal of the playoffs to tie the game after some good puck movement between Brennan, Arcobello and Connor Carrick.
Shortly thereafter, Albany again proved they’re not shy in the physical aspect of the game when Bibeau came out of his net to clear the puck and Matt Lorito took a healthy run at the goaltender, absolutely flattening him. Bibeau bounced straight back up, but the Albany forward was fortunate to receive just two minutes despite appearing to lead with an elbow.
Toronto carved out one good chance with the ensuing man advantage, but Josh Leivo watched on in frustration as Wedgewood snatched his one-time effort out of the air with his glove.
With Clune in the box for high sticking — the right call on this occasion — Toronto’s penalty kill held firm once more in the final minutes of the second period. Toronto garnered momentum from that kill and almost tallied a go-ahead goal before the period was through.
A crucial final 20 minutes awaited the Toronto Marlies in a final period with significant sway on the balance of the series.
The Marlies came out the blocks accordingly, with the two Connor’s, Carrick and Brown, almost teeing up Mark Arcobello waiting backdoor.
It was a meat and potatoes play that led to the home team getting their noses back in front. Battling for possession behind the Devils net, Leipsic came out with the puck and dished off to the point to Viktor Loov, who let fire and Zach Hyman tipped past Wedgewood.
Toronto’s lead didn’t last much longer than their first of the game. Only 1:50 later, a giveaway in the Marlies zone presented Brian O’Neill with possession. He found Lorito in front, who cleverly spun around his man and fired off a quick shot that gave Bibeau no chance.
Just as you started to sense the next goal might be the winner, the Marlies regained the lead seven minutes into the period. Brown dropped the puck off at the point to Brennan, who beat Wedgewood top shelf, with Leivo providing a perfect screen in front.
The Devils responded like a scalded cat, but Bibeau made a pivotal double save on Boucher to keep the Marlie lead intact.
After a penalty-ridden middle frame, just one penalty was called in the third period and it led to a Marlies powerplay. It worked against the Marlies in terms of momentum, however, as the Devils killed it with ease and almost tallied shorthanded after an error from Stuart Percy. Bibeau came up big in yet another one-on-one situation.
The Devils had taken the game by the scruff of the neck with a little less than seven minutes to play. Bibeau was forced to make another top save, this time robbing Pietila from the slot. With Albany pressing heavily, gaps appeared and opportunities were available the other way. Sam Carrick appeared to have Wedgewood beaten after a nice backhand to forehand move but he fired wide of the cage on a breakaway.
With the one-way traffic headed their way, Toronto needed to find a way to turn the tide. Enter Zach Hyman, as the hometown boy battled to win possession back a couple of times in the slot before showing great hands in tight. Threatening to go short side, Hyman faked out Wedgewood, went around the net, and finished it off on the wraparound — a beautiful goal and a major relief for the Marlies.
With the extra attacker on, Bibeau needed to make at least five saves to see out the victory, including the last of the game from his backside, as Albany’s barrage proved fruitless.
A hard-fought 5-3 victory sends Toronto to Albany with the series tied at one.
Post Games Notes
– Special teams proved a difference maker, as they did in game one. Toronto were 1 for 5 on the powerplay — really 2 for 5, with their first goal coming the second the powerplay expired — and were perfect over three penalty kills, including a 5-on-3. “It was kind of a see-saw game, kind of nothing much really happening either way, but the special teams kind of lit a fire under the game a little bit and we were pretty good from there,” said Sheldon Keefe.
– T.J Brennan doubled his playoff goals total with a pair of markers. Three of his goals have come on the man advantage.
– A brace of goals from Zach Hyman takes his post-season points tally to four in five games. Sheldon Keefe on Hyman’s game two peformance: “He’s just a machine out there. When he gets on the puck, it’s hard to take it off of him. We asked in the second period for some people to step up. We needed some people to be difference makers for us. It was a critical moment in the game, obviously, but certainly in the series with us being down a game. We asked for people to step up and I thought Hyman was one of those guys who got it done for us — not just because of the goals, but because of how he worked and how played all the way through.”
– Two assists for Connor Carrick takes his playoff total to a league-leading ten points.
– Sam Carrick and Ben Smith both recorded multi-point games.
– Mark Arcobello is yet to score in the playoffs, but registered his third assist on the first Brennan goal.
– Antoine Bibeau made 40 saves for the win. He maybe should have done a little better one the second goal, but he was otherwise superb and made some huge saves at key times of the game.
– This was the first occasion all season that Scott Wedgewood has allowed more than three goals in a game for Albany.
– After the game, Sheldon Keefe issued a challenge to William Nylander to be better in Game 3. “I thought he got pushed around a little bit and he got a little bit of a sense he was a game behind in terms of what this series is like. They’re obviously going to be hard on him. He’s a young guy, but he’s got to find his way through that; recognizing it’s an older team with experience and the fact that they were hard on him today shows how much they respect his abilities, but he’s got to find his way through that to be able to impact the game offensively.”
Sheldon Keefe Post Game
Marlies Player Stats — Toronto 5 vs. Albany 3
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) May 6, 2016