The Toronto Marlies found themselves in a prime position to catapult themselves to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs on Friday night, up 2-1 in a best of five series where the remainder of the games were to be played on home ice. Having the one-game lead gave a bit more room for the team to be relaxed, but the game certainly didn’t end up being an easy one, taking three overtimes to find its winner. Much to the delight of the home crowd that stuck around, the Marlies pulled off the 2-1 victory to advance.
Toronto came storming out of the gates, putting the pressure on MacKenzie Blackwood right from the start, and that turned into an early lead for the blue and white. Travis Dermott was fed a pass from Kerby Rychel at the left point, and he made no mistake in firing a wrist shot into the back of his opponents’ goal eight minutes into the contest.
The period was one that Toronto largely controlled, outshooting the Devils 11-4. You could see Albany’s frustrations boil over in the final minutes of the frame when Seth Helgeson found himself involved with both Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic, and John Quenneville chased down Travis Dermott to throw a dangerous-looking hit. Thankfully, Dermott escaped unscathed, though Kapanen wasn’t so lucky; Helgeson’s errant elbow inflicted enough damage to end his night.
The Quenneville hit sent the Marlies to the powerplay to start the second period, and while they didn’t convert, it set the tone for them to continue controlling the ice, leaving little for Kasimir Kaskisuo to do for a while. Unfortunately for Toronto, when the Devils did get their opportunity, they made the most of it, as Carter Camper scored his second of the series with three minutes to go in the third period.
The Marlies, despite another dominant period (outshooting Albany 16-5), couldn’t break the margin in the third period. Sending the game into overtime. Basic hockey god theory would have you think that a team that’s taken 70% of the shots was doomed to lose in a situation like this, and that thought was tested quickly when both Justin Holl and Andrew Campbell saw untimely deaths to their sticks. Toronto managed to get past that, but it led to an overtime where Albany began to control the pace; especially when Rinat Valiev took a double minor for high sticking with seven minutes remaining.
The Marlies killed that off, got out of the woods, and forced a second overtime. From there, they regained momentum and even had a powerplay of their own, but still couldn’t convert any of their opportunities to cap things off. That would have to wait for the third overtime, where Justin Holl found himself able to take Toronto’s 60th shot of the game, and he made no mistake in making it the goal that sent his team to the second round.
With the win, Toronto will face the Syracuse Crunch in the second round, with the first pair of games likely coming in Syracuse this upcoming weekend. Good thing, too; with how long that lasted, I don’t think anybody was looking forward to returning tomorrow afternoon.