The Toronto Marlies prevailed in overtime for the second straight game after producing one of their better overall performances of the season.
The only frustration with the 6-5 victory is that the Marlies should’ve won in regulation after twice leading by a pair of goals.
“I thought our guys played a really good hockey game,” said Sheldon Keefe. “The reality is we just keep making mistakes. We played a great game with great periods with segments in the game where we were in full control, and then one mistake or two mistakes and it ends up in your net. We found a way to get two points here, but we know we have to start limiting mistakes. The mistakes are being made by guys that were big parts in us winning a championship last year and know better.”
The Marlies were all over Cleveland from the opening puck drop and deservedly surged out to an early lead.
Only 74 seconds elapsed before Carl Grundstrom opened the scoring from an acute angle with an intended pass that appeared to take a friendly deflection. Chris Mueller could easily have knotted the first goal himself after hard work from his linemates as the Marlies were creating chances at will.
Adam Brooks, Calle Rosen, and Mueller (again) were all turned aside before Andreas Borgman doubled the lead with a nice individual effort at the eight-minute mark. The defenseman stepped around Nathan Gerbe and drove to the net, twice forcing a save from Jean-Francois Berube before finding the net on the third attempt.
Against the run of play, Cleveland halved the lead through Kevin Stenlund four minutes later. A sneaky backhand shot that crept through Eamon McAdam might be one the goaltender would like back, but it was a lapse of concentration defensively from the Marlies, who were in total control of the game at that point.
The Monsters weren’t able to capitalize on a power play following their first goal of the game before the Marlies went about restoring their two-goal lead.
It was a bit of a gift for Grundstrom as Cleveland presented him with the puck in the slot, but it was not without merit, as his line’s relentless forecheck scrambled Cleveland inside their own zone.
The Marlies were better value than a 3-1 lead through 20 minutes but soon saw their advantage evaporate in the middle frame.
The warning should have been heeded at the five-minute mark when Rasmus Sandin was forced into a tremendous diving play to break up a Cleveland 2-on-1 rush. The Marlies ended up turning the puck over in their own zone and continued to scramble, with McAdam making a pair of saves to deny Justin Wade and Zac Dalpe, but the second rebound was put home by Paul Bittner with almost seven minutes on the clock.
The Marlies tried to respond, but Trevor Moore was turned aside by Berube and Rich Clune was unable to provide the final touch on a good piece of cycling play from the fourth line.
The Marlies did draw a power play, but it only resulted in a goal for Cleveland. A misplay from Adam Brooks led to an odd-man rush, where McAdam was helpless as Bittner tee’d up Mark Letestu to tie the game at 3-3.
Gerbe and Grundstrom were both denied by excellent saves from the respective goaltenders as the scores remain tied heading into the third period.
The Marlies came roaring out of the blocks in the final frame, netting twice inside the first five minutes.
Marchment was the beneficiary of a beautiful set up by his linemates Brooks and Moore before Pierre Engvall played a give-and-go with Grundstrom and broke in on Berube alone to put the Marlies ahead 5-2 with a tidy finish.
Sheldon Keefe must have been tearing his hair out 90 seconds later, however, as a giveaway in the defensive zone resulted in the Monsters closing to within one. McAdam did all he could to turn aside Dalpe, but Eric Robinson was on hand to tuck home a rebound uncontested.
Despite that setback, the Marlies appeared to be in control of proceedings until 30 seconds of madness proved their undoing.
A series of misplays and miscommunication led to the Marlies getting caught with too many men on the ice. Cleveland pulled Berube for an extra attacker and it paid dividends, as Letestu blasted home his second of the game to level the score at 5-5 with just 1:57 left on the clock.
Neither team could muster a chance of note for the remainder of regulation, which was more disappointing for the Marlies, who ended the period on the power play. In fact, Toronto’s inability with the extra man almost led to Cleveland snatching the extra point as the penalty expired. Alex Broadhurst exited the box, corralled a long stretch pass, and was now in alone on McAdam, who bailed his team out with a wonderful glove save.
Overtime was frenetic, with the Marlies not touching the puck for almost two minutes at one point, but they found the winner with 43 seconds left on the clock. For the second game running, Marchment was the OT hero as he batted home a rebound from Brooks’ initial effort to seal the extra point.
Post Game Notes
– This was a well-deserved victory for the Marlies, who were clearly the better team for large spells of the game, although special teams remain a concern. A power play and short-handed goal against after working on special teams all week wasn’t the expected result.
“Special teams continue to be a liability and we need to find some solutions there as a coaching staff,” said Keefe.
– That is now consecutive two-goal games and overtime winners for Mason Marchment. Thanks to five points (4-1-5) in his last two outings, Marchment is now at a point per game pace through 12 games.
– No points for the top line, but not through a lack of effort (combined 12 shots on goal). Chris Mueller led all skaters with seven shots on net, denied by a combination of goaltending and a lack of luck in front of goal, while Jeremy Bracco and Dmytro Timashov did all they could to create opportunities for the veteran centerman.
“Muels has been great for us all year,” said Keefe. “He was all around the net today. I thought he had some glorious opportunities to extend the lead and they just didn’t fall for him. But he’s been great for us all year leading the way. He’s done a great job with Bracco and Timashov and of making that line go.”
– That’s now back-to-back victories for Eamon McAdam, albeit with less than flattering statistics in this game. He was hung out to dry on four of the five goals allowed and made some key stops among his 32 saves.
– Carl Grundstrom registered his first North American three-point haul (2-1-3) and is now at a point per game pace through 15 games. After a slow beginning to the season form-wise, Grundstrom is beginning to look like a dominant player on a consistent basis at the AHL level.
“Grundstrom, Engvall, Jooris — that line had a number of really good shifts for us,” said Keefe. “All through the lineup I thought we played well. We just have to be able to keep our brains switched on and play a solid 60 minutes as far as the execution level.”
– Friday’s lines: