The Toronto Marlies grabbed a point but fell to a second straight defeat against the Rochester Americans after letting a 4-1 lead slip away on Sunday.
In truth, the initial three-goal cushion flattered the Marlies, who were outplayed for 45 minutes but made hay on their scoring opportunities in the middle frame.
The first period had a similar feel to Saturday’s encounter, with Rochester unable to turn their ascendancy into more than one goal.
Wayne Simpson hit the angle of post and crossbar just five minutes in after the Marlies allowed him to drive from behind the goal line to the crease unattended.
Toronto then lost Adam Brooks following a late hit by Andrew MacWilliam that could easily have been called for a boarding infraction. Instead, there was no call and Brooks took no further part in the game after slamming hard into the boards head first.
Despite the Marlies getting the only two power play opportunities of the period, Rochester led 15-6 in shots and scored the lone goal with 12:56 played. The Amerks worked the puck at will inside the Toronto zone before Rasmus Asplund ripped home a one-time shot on a feed from Victor Olofsson.
Whatever was said by Sheldon Keefe in the first intermission had the desired effect as the Marlies took control for 13 minutes in the second period and built up a 3-1 lead.
A terrific cross-ice pass from Rasmus Sandin found Scott Pooley in space in the left circle, where he comprehensively beat Scott Wedgewood five-hole to tie the game at 1-1.
Then came the Jeremy Bracco and Chris Mueller show — only on this occasion, it was the veteran centerman teeing up Bracco, who ripped a one-time shot top shelf past Wedgewood.
In-between times, Vincent LoVerde was injured on another dubious hit and was also ruled out for the remainder of the game.
It failed to put a stop to the onslaught, however, as Pierre Engvall made it 3-1 soon after. Michael Carcone dropped the puck back just inside the offensive zone before Engvall skated by three Rochester players and fired back against the grain into the bottom corner of the net.
The tide turned with five minutes remaining, however, as Rochester resumed normal service and hemmed Toronto deep inside their own zone with wave after wave of pressure. The Amerks were not able to deliver the killer blow, however, and trailed 3-1 after 40 minutes.
A defensive letoff from the Amerks just 38 seconds into the third period appeared to kill the game dead: After three Amerks players surrounded Nicholas Baptiste and were unable to separate him from the puck, Baptiste found Timashov in acres of space and the diminutive winger sniped top shelf past Wedgewood, who was then replaced by Adam Wilcox.
Far from downhearted by that early blow, Rochester immediately roared back and drew themselves within two at the six-minute mark, when C.J Smith netted his 25th of the season with a finish from an acute angle to give his team some hope.
A plethora of near misses including a post and some good saves from Kasimir Kaskisuo kept Rochester off the board until a third goal arrived with over six minutes remaining.
Asplund scored for the second time in the game with another one-time shot after once more being afforded lots of space inside the Marlies zone.
The pace was now frenetic as Rochester threw caution to the wind in the hunt for a tying goal. With an extra attacker on the ice, they completed the comeback with 22 seconds left in regulation — Kyle Criscuolo was left unchallenged as he tipped home a point shot by Danny O’Regan to tie the game at 4-4 and force overtime.
Almost inevitably, the extra frame was short and sweet as the Amerks made short work of the Marlies at 3-on-3. Danny O’Regan picked up speed through the neural zone, drove straight past Engvall in alone on goal, and finished with aplomb by just 17 seconds into overtime.
Post Game Notes
– After taking just one point from the weekend, Toronto’s magic number for post-season qualification is now ten. Second place in the North Division is now an unrealistic target, but the Marlies have a six-point cushion over the chasing pack.
– Chris Mueller extended his points streak to 12 games with an assist (10-9-19). The veteran forward is now just one game shy of tying the franchise record set by Spencer Abbot (13 games – 19 points).
– Jeremy Bracco and Pierre Engvall scored their 19th and 18th goals of the season, respectively.
– Calle Rosen recorded an assist in his return from injury, and Sheldon Keefe admitted he used the defenseman more than intended after Vincent LoVerde was ruled out of the game.
“I thought he looked good,” said Sheldon Keefe. “We used him probably 10 minutes more than I wanted to use him today, just given it is his first game in a month or so… That didn’t help him or our team, frankly. We are obviously happy to have him in the lineup and to get him back going, but I’m sure he is quite tired right now.”
– Sunday’s lines: