The Toronto Marlies sprinted out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes against the Albany Devils on Saturday only to be comprehensively outplayed the rest of the way.
The Marlies had their four-game winning streak snapped but did pick up a point in the process to give them 15 points out of a possible 18 over their last nine games.
After a few scary moments in their own zone to begin the game, Toronto took control early and netted inside three minutes. A long outlet pass from Tony Cameranesi allowed Eric Faille to race away down the right wing. Recognizing that Albany goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood had overcommitted, Faille circled around the net and scored on his wraparound attempt.
The Marlies powerplay went to work shortly after but was unable to double the lead despite sustained possession in the offensive zone.
The lines led by Byron Froese and Frederik Gauthier were causing the Devils all kinds of trouble and it was the former who doubled the Marlies lead 12 minutes in.
With Albany intent on hitting everything that moved rather than concentrating on the puck, Froese ended up in alone on Blackwood and beat the goaltender five-hole. Seth Griffith was run over at the blue line on the play, and Trevor Moore the victim of a vicious hit that would have been a boarding call. Thankfully both were okay, although Moore took a couple of shifts off before returning.
Toronto’s next powerplay was cut short by a needless penalty from Froese 22 seconds into the man advantage. It mattered little, however, as the Marlies dominated 4-on-4 play and were running the Devils ragged in their own zone.
As the Devils penalty expired, Griffith worked himself into some space to the left of goal before teeing up Travis Dermott for his second of the year — a shorthanded marker.
Antoine Bibeau had been little more than an interested spectator to this point, but he was finally called into action with a little over three minutes remaining in the period. An odd-man break resulted in a great scoring chance for Kevin Rooney, but Bibeau did just enough to turn him aside. Staying sharp on the same play, Toronto’s goaltender held onto a long-range effort from Josh Jacobs through traffic.
Toronto got back on their heels after that and a late let-off allowed the Devils back in the game 41 seconds before the buzzer. Jacob MacDonald drove to the net and Petr Straka followed up the play to bang home the rebound for his third goal of the season.
The shots favoured the Marlies 18-9 after a dominant first period, but Toronto played reactive rather than proactive with the lead from that point on.
Moore was one bright spot early in the middle frame and came close to re-establishing the three-goal advantage. Twisting and turning on the right wall, the rookie forward worked himself into some room before driving to the net. His intended pass hit an Albany stick in front and then the post with Blackwood beaten.
After Andrew Campbell went to the box for tripping 3:17 into the period, Ben Sexton was denied by Bibeau and the post as Toronto’s penalty kill held on for dear life.
Froese was the next man penalized but Toronto’s penalty kill nearly scored the team’s second shorthanded goal of the game. Andreas Johnsson skated circles around Albany but his backhand attempt was turned aside by Blackwood.
After exiting the box, Froese made a desperation diving play to enable Cameranesi to head on a partial breakaway, but he was only able to get away a backhand effort that was smothered by Blackwood.
Sexton, a handful for Toronto throughout the game, released a wicked shot that smacked against the crossbar and bounced out at the nine-minute mark of the period. The visitors had Toronto running around following that effort in a three-minute spell without a whistle.
At the next stoppage, the officials chose to look at Sexton’s shot through video review and the break gave Toronto a chance to recover and reset. Colin Greening and Johnsson almost combined but the former was unable to corral a rebound before Gauthier attempted a wraparound after hard work from Rich Clune created the opportunity.
A questionable call on Cameranesi sent Albany on their third straight powerplay of the middle frame with three minutes left in the period. The Devils didn’t account for the pace of Justin Holl, who picked up the puck deep in his own zone. Instead of dumping to safety, Holl set about on a rush down the left. His speed, coupled with Albany’s apparent lack of urgency, allowed Holl to easily drive to the net, cut across the crease and slide the puck past Blackwood for a short-handed marker — Toronto’s second of the game.
Toronto needed to kill the remainder of the penalty in order to take a 4-1 lead into the third period, but another late-period goal kept the game alive for Albany. With three seconds left on the man advantage, Albany struck to pull within two on a slick passing play from the Devils, with a missed assignment allowing Jan Mandat to score at the backdoor far too easily.
Albany could have only trailed by one through 40 minutes; Dermott’s cheap turnover led to a 4-on-2 break for the visitors, but somehow Albany failed to create a chance on the initial rush before Bibeau came up big to deny MacDonald.
That was a taste of what was to come for Bibeau, who faced shooting gallery in the final frame.
After another debatable call put Toronto on the kill early in the third period, the Marlies were thankful for Campbell’s long reach that helped him break up an odd-man rush.
Back at even strength, Straka was denied by a right pad save from Bibeau, who then rode his luck seconds later. As Toronto floundered with one player missing his stick, Rooney let fly with a shot that Bibeau deflected onto the post.
A fifth straight man advantage for Albany led to more great work from Bibeau — Carter Camper found Nick Lappin with a perfect backdoor pass but Toronto’s netminder was quick across his crease, moving left to right to make his best stop of the game to this point.
Johnsson drew a penalty to cut the penalty kill short but it did nothing to halt the flow of Albany’s momentum. Blake Coleman was gifted a shorthanded opportunity and Bibeau was there again to bail out his teammates, who had been careless in possession.
A TV timeout provided the home team with a brief respite but Toronto appeared a tired group, having chased Albany around the ice since the end of the first period.
The Marlies still clung onto a two-goal lead and were indebted to Bibeau again with seven minutes remaining. Brian Gibbons caused havoc with a relentless drive to the net and the loose puck fell to Lappin, who could only watch in disbelief as Bibeau somehow pulled off a miraculous glove save.
On a rare foray in the visitors’ zone, Froese found the iron with a bad-angle backhand attempt that appeared to handcuff Blackwood. That’s as close as Toronto would come to winning the game as Albany broke through with 2:59 left on the clock.
Sexton was allowed to turn and drift into middle left circle virtually uncontested before firing a top shelf, short-side shot that finally found a way past Bibeau.
A tying goal looked inevitable, even as the game entered the final minute of regulation. With Blackwood pulled for the extra attacker, Sexton netted his second of the game after his teammates had outworked the Marlies in several puck battles.
The Marlies held on for overtime and a single point, but that’s as much as they would take from this game. There were chances for Griffith, Timashov and Rychel at three-on-three, but Albany claimed a deserved winner with 49 seconds left. Moore handed possession to Lappin, who led an odd-man rush toward the Toronto net and dished off to Yohann Auvitu at the right moment. Bibeau had no chance of stopping the one-time shot from the slot.
This was a frustrating loss for the Marlies but it was nothing less than they deserved after a 20-minute performance.
Post Game Notes
– After outshooting Albany 18-9 through 20 minutes, Toronto ended up behind on the shot clock by a count of 45-37. They gave up 36 shots in the final two periods.
– Byron Froese netted his fifth goal in four games, taking his tally to 22 for the season. He’s now tied for second in the league in goals.
– Seth Griffith recorded his fifth multi-point effort in ten games, keeping his scoring streak alive. He’s now up to 15 points in 10 games since joining the Marlies.
– Eric Faille scored his first goal of the season in his eighth AHL appearance of 2016-17.
– An assist for Frank Corrado gives him seven points in ten games for the Marlies this season.
– You can catch the Marlies’ Sunday matinee rematch against the Devils on TSN2 at 3 p.m.
Post Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet – Albany 5 vs. Toronto 4 (OT)