Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
The Toronto Marlies dominated the standings during the regular season. Not because they won every game by a landslide (though they had their fair share), but because when they got themselves in a hole, they’d find a way to band together and escape it. Such was the case in Game 7 tonight, as the team overcame a few very tense moments to win the evening, and the series, by a 4-3 result.
Toronto was quick to turn a positive into a negative early in the first period. While Viktor Loov’s extra shove in the boards was enough to get him a roughing call, Connor Brown managed to create himself a breakaway while killing the ensuing penalty and used the opportunity to slip a backhander past Scott Wedgewood to give the Marlies the early lead.
That goal was enough to keep the team up throughout the first period, but almost immediately into the second frame, the Devils responded. Paul Thompson, recognizing the chaos of the shift he was playing in and simply threw a puck towards the net and got the deflection he needed to turn a wide-headed shot into an equalizer. Albany slowed the pace from there, limiting the period to just 11 total shots between the two teams, looking for an opportunity to set themselves apart.
Early in the third period, they got it. After an offensive zone faceoff win by the Devils, Nick Lappin rushed to the front of the net and picked up a juicy rebound for his fifth goal of the playoffs to put his team ahead. Ricoh Coliseum built up a nervous tension, with the team now 17 minutes from elimination. They needed a player to step up and re-steal the show, be it a vet or a youngster.
Enter Kasperi Kapanen. The 19-year-old, who was in the midst of another solid two-way game, turned on the offensive lightbulb that many remember from his Gold Medal Heroics in February. A dipsie-doodle followed by a heavy wrist shot leveled up the game with 11 minutes to go, and less than four minutes later, Kapanen set up Connor Carrick for a gimmie to the side of the net.
The Devils, awoken from their shell, started flooding Antoine Bibeau with pucks, and eventually it worked; Thompson picked up his second of the game with 4:41 remaining, leaving it all but certain that the deciding game would go to overtime. That is until the fourth line stepped up as the game’s heroes. A shot by Nikita Soshnikov, who missed Game 6, set up a juicy rebound for Rich Clune, who made no mistake in scoring his first goal of the playoffs. From there, it was a matter of holding on until the final buzzer, be it by holding the puck to the boards, moving it up the ice, or just about anything that would keep it from going to the net. Lappin threw a last ditch effort on goal and Jim O’Brien did his best to squeak it in, but the final buzzer sounded and ended the series.
From here, the Marlies will go on to face the Hershey Bears, AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals. That series will have an interesting 2-3-1-1 format due to Hershey’s arena being used by a travelling circus, meaning that it will begin on the road on Friday night. Puck drop for that game is at 7:00 PM.