The penultimate game of the regular season brought together two teams with differing agendas.
The Toronto Marlies — who clinched a playoff berth already and unable progress up the standings — were more looking to find their form and stay healthy as their main objectives entering the game. The Belleville Senators came into this encounter with two points a must in their quest to keep their postseason dreams alive.
The visiting Senators began the game on the front foot, albeit with some help from the Marlies, who were turning the puck over with regularity during the early stages.
Kasimir Kaskisuo was called into action just 14 seconds when he robbed Darren Archibald with a glove save after Belleville was gifted a 2-on-1 break.
The Marlies failed to make use of the game’s first power play before Belleville drew first blood. Rudolfs Balcers netted his 16th of the season, but Toronto and Kaskisuo, in particular, weren’t happy after the goaltender was clearly run into in the buildup.
Colt Conrad almost responded immediately, but after sending the Senators defense into a spin, his wraparound attempt stayed the wrong side of the goal line.
A power play marker from Jeremy Bracco tied up proceedings with just 64 seconds left in the period, although whether it was a shot or an intended backdoor feed to Chris Mueller only Bracco will know.
The middle frame was notable for three things: Four penalties called, Toronto continuing to turn the puck over at will, and the excellent play of Kaskisuo between the pipes.
Belleville was left frustrated as Toronto’s goaltender turned aside everything the Marlies threw at him, dominating the shot-clock by a 15-4 margin.
With their season on the line, Belleville began the third period the same way they finished the second. The Senators finally took the lead at the seven-minute mark after they made a power play count — Balcers netted from the slot on a feed from Christian Wolanin as Toronto’s penalty kill broke down.
It would have been easy for Toronto to pick up sticks and accept defeat in this one, but they responded admirably.
A tipped attempt by Pierre Engvall missed the net, but he picked up the loose puck and — in a move that’s become something of a trademark this season — he curled from below the goal line, around the right circle, into the middle of the ice, and fired a low wrist shot through traffic past Marcus Hogberg.
The pace and intensity of the final nine minutes then ramped up with the game in balance, with Toronto arguably creating the better opportunities to win it in regulation.
A partial breakaway for Chris Mueller saw Hogberg smother his wrist shot before Belleville netminder made even better save with three minutes remaining — Adam Brooks appeared odds on to score on a nice wraparound attempt, but his low effort was denied by the left pad of Hogberg.
It took the Senators just 32 seconds to secure the extra point they desperately needed in overtime. Toronto gifted them an odd-man rush and despite Kaskisuo fending off the first effort from Cody Goloubef, he could do nothing about Chase Balisy batting the puck out of mid-air and into the net on the rebound attempt.
Post Game Notes
– Jeremy Bracco‘s goal tied him with Tim Stapleton (79 points in 80 game season) for single-season point record for the Toronto Marlies. Bracco is a point behind the league scoring title with one game to play.
– Pierre Engvall scored the game-tying goal to hit 19 on the season in his bid to become the fourth Toronto Marlies rookie to score 20 in a season. Those before him were Josh Leivo, Connor Brown, and Andreas Johnsson.
– Dmytro Timashov recorded his 49th point of the season with an assist on Bracco’s goal.
– Kasimir Kaskisuo posted 33 saves despite taking the overtime loss. It was rough justice for the Finnish goaltender, who has performed far better of late (combined .960 SV% in his last five appearances).
– Saturday’s lines: