Less than 24 hours after surrendering a three-goal lead and losing in overtime, Toronto bounced back with a six-goal win in the rematch against the Albany Devils.
Sunday’s win capped a successful three-game weekend that saw the Marlies take five of a possible six points.
With both teams facing their third games in as many days, mistakes by tired minds played a factor throughout.
A misplay just two minutes in allowed Albany a 2-on-1 break, but Garret Sparks easily turned aside the attempt from John Quenneville.
Toronto opened the scoring after heading to the powerplay 30 seconds later. Travis Dermott showed composure in quarterbacking the man advantage before rifling a shot through traffic for his third of the season.
The Marlies were outshot 11-5 after the first 20 minutes of play mostly due to the three consecutive stick penalties they took in the final 14 minutes of the period. The home team did an excellent job of shutting down the Devils powerplay, however, with Sparks’ double stop on Brian Gibbons his only saves of note.
A one-goal advantage flattered Toronto somewhat after 20 minutes, but they were the better team in action-packed middle frame.
After Seth Griffith and Karl Stollery were sent to the box for roughing, the Marlies scored their second of the game just 62 seconds into the second period
Justin Holl crossed the offensive blue line with speed before dropping the puck back for Kerby Rychel, who drove hard to the net. Rychel appeared to be thinking shot but he sent a cross-ice feed for Holl instead. Holl had an easy finish on the doorstep for a brilliantly-worked goal.
The Marlies fell asleep upon the resumption of play and Albany responded inside 18 seconds. Carter Camper reacted first to a rebound after Sparks had initially blocked Josh Jacobs’ effort.
A second powerplay for the Marlies 2:38 into the period provided nothing in the way of goal scoring opportunities, but Toronto was able to put Albany under some sustained pressure back at even strength.
That eventually resulted in another man advantage during which the teams shared a rush chance apiece in the space of ten seconds. An error from Byron Froese allowed Albany a 2-on-1 but Sparks guided the shot wide before the Marlies headed back the other way with speed for a 3-on-1 rush, where Ken Appleby came up with a save on Froese.
Frank Corrado’s double minor for high-sticking put the Marlies lead under pressure 12 minutes into the middle frame. Toronto’s penalty kill rose to the occasion by killing the first portion of the penalty before striking shorthanded — Andreas Johnsson sent Froese on a breakaway and Toronto’s top goal scorer made no mistake with a five-hole finish.
For the second time in the game, the Devils responded quickly and tallied on the powerplay. MacDonald faked a slapshot before sending a pass to Reece Scarlet waiting in the left circle. Scarlet caught his one-timer perfectly and found the twine via the post.
The Marlies finished the middle frame in the ascendancy but were unable to extend their lead. The best chance fell to Froese on Toronto’s third powerplay of the game, but he whiffed on the opportunity from low in the left circle.
The Marlies’ man advantage carried over into the third period, but Dermott was the only player to test Appleby as Froese contrived to fire two efforts wide of the target from promising positions.
After mounting a huge comeback the day before, Albany looked confident they could overcome a single goal deficit with a period left to play. They almost tied the game at the two-minute mark, but Lappin was robbed by Sparks after collecting a rebound off of the back boards.
60 seconds later, a mistake from Appleby almost put his team down by two — Eric Faille was the recipient of his intended clearance but his shot hit Tony Cameranesi in front and somehow drifted wide of the cage.
In the third period of the teams’ third game in three days, sloppiness was setting in — the normally-reliable Frederik Gauthier gave the puck away in his own zone to Kevin Rooney in the middle of the ice, but Sparks came up with a fantastic glove save to preserve Toronto’s lead.
With Andrew Nielsen in the box for tripping, Albany came close to their second powerplay goal of the game, but Sparks pulled off two good stops including a top-drawer effort to deny Quenneville.
Justin Holl, who posed an offensive threat to Albany all weekend, came within an inch of scoring his second of the game at the ten-minute mark. He escaped down the right wall with the Devils were unable to cope with his pace. Holl drove to the net and released a tricky backhand attempt that Appleby got a piece of with his right skate, sending the puck onto the post and away to safety.
A Marlies powerplay halfway through the period only resulted in a fantastic opportunity for the visitors to tie up the game while shorthanded. Dermott was stripped of possession behind his own net, but Sparks bailed out his rookie teammate by shutting down Blake Coleman.
Six seconds after the penalty expired, Toronto pushed themselves ahead by two thanks to another goal from a defenceman. Frank Corrado let fly from the middle of the ice and recorded his first goal of the season with a shot that appeared to fool Appleby.
That proved to be the killer blow for the visitors as Toronto proceeded to tally three times in a little over three minutes of play.
With seven minutes left, Johnsson was guilty of some poor discipline with a stick infraction two seconds into a Marlies powerplay. More four-on-four action led to a flurry of chances.
Nick Lappin’s wraparound attempt was denied by Sparks swiftly moving left to right across his net. Seconds later, the Marlies broke on an odd-man rush. Holl led the break and wisely looked off his teammate before firing a high shot past the blocker of Appleby for his second of the game and third of the weekend.
With four minutes left, Johnsson atoned for his earlier penalty — joining the play out of the box, he handled a pass from Froese and rifled over the pads of the beleaguered Appleby from the hashmarks.
Up 6-2 with fewer than four minutes remaining at the end of a long weekend, there were no signs of a miracle comeback for Albany. Sparks only needed to make one save on Rod Pulley in the dying seconds.
Post Game Notes
– This was the last ever regular season meeting between these two teams, with New Jersey moving their affiliation to Binghamton for 2017-18. Albany edged the season series by taking ten points to Toronto’s eight.
– Toronto is now riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1-0), which is tied for their best run of the season. Toronto’s eighth victory in their last ten games puts them firmly in a playoff spot with just over a third of the season remaining.
– This was the first time Garret Sparks faced Albany this season and he came up with his best performance for a couple of weeks. 31 saves for his 13th win of the season.
– Byron Froese scored his league-leading (tied with Chicago’s Wade Megan) 23rd goal of the season and extended his points streak to five games. Seth Griffith has been given a lot of credit for Toronto’s recent revival, and rightfully so, but Froese has eleven points in his last five.
– Travis Dermott now has goals in consecutive games and is turning the corner offensively with three goals and five assists in his last 11.
– Brett Findlay has had to wait patiently for his opportunities this season but he rarely lets the Marlies down when he gets a chance. His two assists give him eight points in 14 appearances.
– Frank Corrado netted his first goal of the season and is now riding a three-game points streak. His eight points in 11 outings have provided a vital boost from the blue line.
– Justin Holl‘s pair of goals is his first brace as a Toronto Marlie. His previous goal was way back in October against Manitoba. Hopefully this is the start of an improved final third.
– The point streak had to end sometime for Seth Griffith, but it did so with many of his teammates stepping up in his place.
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet – Toronto 6 vs. Albany 2