Overtime has become a staple of post-season hockey for Toronto teams this season.
After clinching Game 3 thanks to a Colin Greening OT winner on home ice, the Toronto Marlies were faced with the same scenario as they looked to punch their ticket to the second round in Game 4.
This Friday night marathon at the Ricoh featured two goals through five periods of play but should and would have been won in regulation — “We played as good of a 60 minutes as we have all season,” said Sheldon Keefe — if not for a spectacular performance from MacKenzie Blackwood between the pipes for Albany.
The game began at a frantic pace without a whistle in the opening five minutes.
Toronto opened the scoring with almost nine minutes on the clock after hemming the Devils in their own zone. Kerby Rychel swung out from behind the net and sent a pass over to Travis Dermott at the top of the opposite circle. The rookie defenseman beat Blackwood clean with a perfectly-placed wrist shot.
Albany almost tied the game up immediately after through Rod Pelley but he was denied by Kasimir Kaskisuo. The Devils drew a penalty on the play but were stifled by a committed Marlies penalty kill on the first power play opportunity of the game.
Sergey Kalinin, Steve Oleksy and Kasperi Kapanen had the best opportunities for Toronto to extend their lead before shenanigans broke out inside the final three minutes.
Kapanen was one-on-one with Seth Helgeson and appeared to take a stick to the head as he drove toward the net. The reverse angle clearly showed Helgeson elbowing the Finnish winger, spelling the end of Kapanen’s involvement in the game.
There was no penalty called on the play, a theme that continued throughout the game. Brendan Leipsic was the next to be targeted by Helgeson, with cross-checks and punches left unpunished.
The period finished with John Quenneville slamming Dermott from behind — a dangerous hit that thankfully did no damage — and the officials finally made a call.
Toronto wasn’t able to make the man advantage count to begin the second period, with Blackwood denying Andreas Johnsson with a nice toe save.
It was 20 minutes of frustration for the Marlies, who drove the majority of play and had the better of the chances. Rebounds continued to elude Toronto and Blackwood made 15 saves to keep his team within one.
The Devils goaltender robbed Mike Sislo on a set-up from Dmytro Timashov and similarly denied Dermott, who was firing on sight throughout the game.
Carter Camper forced Kaskisuo into his first action in a while before Blackwood matched him on a rush the other way. Andrew Nielsen snapped a shot from the high slot and watched in frustration as the Albany netminder did just enough to keep the puck out.
Toronto’s exasperation grew further with three minutes remaining. There was a whiff of too-many-men as Albany surged forward and changed lines. Camper, jumping into the play, wasn’t picked up in the left circle, where he took a pass from Quenneville and beat Kaskisuo far side.
The Devils were energized after tying up the game and threatened to score a second on a goalmouth scramble. Toronto responded in kind on a break the other way, with Colin Greening, Dermott, Kalinin and Oleksy somehow all failing to push the puck over the goal line.
It’s a miracle that the deadlock wasn’t broken in the final frame of regulation. The Marlies laid siege to the Devils net early and often in the third.
Inside the first four minutes, Trevor Moore and Johnsson were turned aside and Seth Griffith hit the post. That was followed by a pretty piece of interplay from Sislo and Gauthier that ended in the former chipping his effort over the crossbar.
There were further chances for Sislo, Gauthier, Leipsic and Dermott, but once again Blackwood made 15 saves in 20 minutes and rode his luck, with rebounds bouncing to safety and Devils defensemen able to clear the zone.
Albany came out re-energized to start the first overtime period, dominating the opening 90 seconds. After surviving that initial surge, Toronto responded with an odd-man rush the other way, but Blackwood grabbed ahold of Cal O’Reilly’s effort from the right circle.
The Marlies thought they had won the game at the five-minute mark. A shot from Nielsen created a rebound and havoc in front, with Holl, Rychel and Greening all stabbing at the loose puck. Cal O’Reilly was celebrating behind the net but the officials were having none of it. In fairness, the referee was well positioned to make the call.
Kaskisuo was a passenger for long stretches of the game during regulation but he came into his own during overtime. He made a couple of vital saves at the ten-minute mark before the officials finally called a penalty.
After letting so many slashes, intentional interference and questionable hits go unpunished, Rinat Valiev was assessed a double minor for high sticking. It was the right call, but it left a sour taste in the mouths of the home team, who unquestionably had been on the wrong end of the ‘let them play’ approach to officiating up until this point.
Toronto’s penalty kill rose to the occasion with two players, in particular, stepping to the fore. Captain Andrew Campbell used his big frame to block a rocket of a shot, eliciting cheers and applause from the home crowd. It appeared as if his efforts may have been in vain after Leipsic turned the puck over inside his own zone, creating a 2-on-1 break for the Devils with the puck finding Nick Lappin alone in front. Kaskisuo threw himself to his left and stonewalled the Albany forward.
Toronto was happy to take the game to double overtime after hanging on by a thread, with Kaskisuo coming up with 10 saves in the first OT.
The second period of overtime proved less eventful, although both teams had their chances. Moore and O’Reilly almost struck early before a turnover presented Jan Mandat with a prime opportunity from the slot. Enter Kaskisuo once again.
A dubious hooking penalty was handed out to the Devils at the 11:25 mark of double OT, sending Toronto to just their second power play of the game 70 minutes after the first one. The Marlies looked tired and only managed to set up once, forcing Blackwood into just a pair of saves.
A jaded-looking Marlies team found another gear in the last five minutes, especially the final 60 seconds, and managed to carry that momentum into the third period of sudden-death overtime.
Blackwood turned aside Leipsic and Moore inside the opening four minutes, but Albany’s rookie goaltender was finally solved on the fifth shot of the sixth period.
Dermott carried the puck across the blue line down the left wing and looked to find Gauthier on the opposite wing. The puck bounced awkwardly and eluded the centreman, who regained possession along the boards. Gauthier then dished off to Leipsic, who was hooked as he drove to the net. No call was made, but the puck dropped for Gauthier and he found Holl at the blue line.
The defenseman glanced at the net before releasing a wrist shot that found a way past Blackwood, sending the crowd still remaining at the Ricoh into pandemonium and the Toronto Marlies into the second round.
Post Game Notes
– This was the Toronto Marlies longest game in franchise history and the 12th-longest game in Calder Cup Playoff history.
– MacKenzie Blackwood rightly received plaudits for a 58-save performance, but Kasimir Kaskisuo was important in his own right for Toronto with a 30-save effort. Kaskisuo is now 7-1 in the AHL if we combine his regular season and playoff appearances.
“He came in and recognized an opportunity here and took full advantage of it right away. You give credit to the folks in Orlando. He didn’t have the greatest season there in terms of his consistency and his numbers weren’t anywhere near what they’ve been here. They worked with him, they kept on him. Piero Greco made lots of trips down there to work with him and kept in constant contact with him. A lot of people contributed to help him be ready here, but certainly, the credit goes to him for being a confident guy. There is a bit of pressure in a series like this. It’s playoff hockey. You’re with a team you haven’t been with all season long that is looking for to hold them in and give them a chance to win. He did exactly that.
He didn’t get a whole lot of work today but he came up big when he needed to and kept them at one goal. You can’t ask for a whole lot more.”
– Sheldon Keefe on Kasimir Kaskisuo
– Two points for Justin Holl included the game winner. He was a major difference maker in the series with a team-leading six points in four games.
– Travis Dermott fired nine shots on goal and could easily have added to his one goal. He enjoyed offensive success during the regular season against Albany and that carried over with four points in this series.
– Frederik Gauthier (one assist) put up four points in as many games and proved a real handful for Albany, especially on the forecheck.
– There is no update on Kasperi Kapanen’s condition at this time, but he’ll have a week to recover before Round 2 against Syracuse.
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet – Toronto 2 vs. Albany 1