The Toronto Marlies rallied late to salvage a point against their North Division rivals.
However, Toronto was in a position to collect the full two points on offer despite a sloppy performance overall.
A back-and-forth start didn’t see a whistle blown until a little over the four-minute mark.
Having not registered a shot during that time, Toronto found themselves behind inside five minutes. More coverage errors in their own zone came back to haunt the Marlies — Cal O’Reilly’s centering pass found Nick Baptise as Rochester’s leading goal scorer was left alone in front of goal. After getting denied by Antoine Bibeau on his initial effort, he was uncontested as he tucked home the rebound.
Toronto was clearly second best but tied the game three minutes later on their first shot of the game. An errant pass inside the Marlies zone was picked off by Kasperi Kapanen, who went off and away down the ice all alone. Goaltender John Muse had little chance as Kapanen went top shelf for his 15th of the season.
Tying the game gave the home team their legs and a couple of opportunities to nudge themselves ahead, but Muse made a pair of good saves to deny Brett Findlay and Brendan Leipsic.
Another turnover from Toronto gifted possession to Cole Schneider, but Bibeau was alert and able to turn the effort aside.
The Marlies put themselves ahead with eight minutes to go in the period thanks to excellent work from Dmytro Timashov. The rookie winger twisted and turned behind the Amerks net to shed his man, creating space for a wraparound attempt. Denied on the first attempt, the puck fell to Colin Smith to put home the second opportunity.
The Marlies rarely looked likely to extend their lead and were fortunate to still hold onto the advantage heading into the intermission.
Another turnover presented a chance for Dan Catenacci, who was denied by a right pad from Bibeau. The first Rochester powerplay proved fruitless despite opportunities for Baptiste and Evan Rodrigues before the visitors’ best chance to level up proceedings arrived with a minute remaining.
Late in the period, Tim Kennedy fooled Andrew Nielsen with a move around the rookie defenseman as Rochester had Toronto on their heels on the rush. Kennedy didn’t get all of his shot, making Bibeau’s job easier.
Toronto’s second-period effort was more reminiscent of their play in 2016 as they were sloppy in possession, eventually handing the initiative to a tired Rochester team playing their third game in as many days.
With Kerby Rychel sent to the box inside two minutes, the visitors wasted little time tying up the game. A shot from Nelson appeared to be redirected in front, beating Bibeau for the second time.
Toronto responded by almost scoring themselves, but Muse got a piece of Timashov’s top-shelf effort to send it high after nice work from Smith. Findlay then drove to the net from the right side, forcing a save from Muse that led to a mad scramble in the crease and a powerplay for the Marlies.
After Toronto lacked any conviction with the extra man, Rochester gathered some momentum from an easy penalty kill.
The Amerks drew ahead just before the midway mark of the game on a frustrating goal to give up for the Marlies. Greening won the defensive zone faceoff but Justin Vaive nipped in uncontested to steal the puck ahead of Corrado and Dermott before firing off a one-time effort past Bibeau. Arguably Bibeau should have had it, but the lack of competitiveness in the faceoff circle will drive the coaching staff up the wall.
Rochester had a chance to extend their lead with a late powerplay after a Kerby Rychel high-sticking minor. The Marlies came the closest shorthanded, with Kapanen and Colin Greening breaking in on a 2-on-1 rush, but the former’s pass was just off the mark.
To take something from this game, Toronto needed to break an appalling record when trailing after two periods.
A promising beginning for the team was halted by a penalty, but they almost tallied while shorthanded. Leipsic drove down the left wing before shooting into the pads of Muse, but the rebound eluded Smith. The play immediately switched the other way, where Bibeau kept Toronto within one as he took a shot off his mask.
A frustrated Marlies team became too individualistic as forays into the Rochester zone were all too easily handed by the visitors.
Rochester may have added an insurance marker if not for some great last-ditch defensive plays from Tobias Lindberg and Viktor Loov respectively.
It took until the 9:30 mark of the period for the Marlies to create any looks offensively. The Amerks gifted Toronto a grade-A chance — Trevor Moore’s pass found Rychel down low, with him and Greening in behind the Rochester defense. Despite a 2-on-0 situation and tonnes of time to make a play, they contrived to waste a golden opportunity.
Two minutes later, Greening redeemed himself somewhat with a perfect feed from behind the net to find Kapanen in the slot. The winger’s one-time effort brought a wonderful save out of Muse.
With the game beginning to peter out, Trevor Moore drew a tripping penalty inside the last five minutes. In what has been somewhat of a go-to powerplay move for Toronto, from the right side Kapanen sent the puck to Rychel standing in front. Though the initial effort was denied, a mad scramble ensued and the calmest man was Kapanen, who measured a shot through traffic to tie the game at 3-3.
There was still 3:53 of regulation time remaining, which was almost exclusively spent in the Rochester zone. Despite putting the Amerks under extended pressure and firing 22 shots on net throughout the third period, the visitors stood firm to ensure overtime.
Toronto carried their momentum into overtime, although Greening should have chosen to shoot with some space afforded to him rather than looking for Kapanen behind the play.
Rochester’s first rush during overtime saw them end the game. Baptiste worked his way around a tired Leipsic before firing on goal. Bibeau made the initial save but no one picked up Mac Bennett, who had the simplest of tap-ins for the game winner.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto outshot Rochester 41-33 but that was skewed somewhat by the third-period numbers.
– Despite the overtime loss, Toronto’s three-game point streak is their second longest of the season.
– Two goals for Kasperi Kapanen takes his tally to sixteen for the season, sixth-best in the AHL.
– Brett Findlay is yet to put up a point in four appearances but could easily have assisted on a pair of goals during this game. He was certainly one of Toronto’s better forwards over the course of 60 minutes.
– Colin Smith has found goals harder to come by this season but this was his second in four games.
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet – Amerks 4 vs. Marlies 3 (OT)