Hold on to your hats, we’ve got a series. The Toronto Marlies appeared destined to fall behind 3-0 in their second-round series tonight all the way until the dying moments, in which the Blue and White went from in danger to in control in less than a minute to win 5-3 and close the series gap to 2-1.
Things didn’t start off too well for Toronto, as they conceded the first goal of the game midway through the first period. Byro Froese took advantage of an ill-timed and planned line change from the home team to send Adam Erne off on a breakaway, and he made no mistake with a wealth of open space to snipe one past Kasimir Kaskisuo. That would be the period’s only goal, as Syracuse outshot Toronto 10-6.
Things got worse before they got better for the Marlies in the second. Seconds after Sergei Kalinin was sent to the penalty box for a trip, Froese rubbed a little bit of extra salt into the prior trade wounds by winning a faceoff and positioning himself to blast a howitzer into the corner of the goal and put some serious doubt into Toronto’s chances.
Fortunately, the Marlies didn’t have much doubt in themselves. At least Andreas Johnsson didn’t; at the midway point in the period, he broke Mike McKenna’s shutout with a self-created give-and-go play on a man advantage, and a few minutes later, he became the benefactor of an awkward Syracuse giveaway, a drop pass from Colin Greening, and the fact that his changeup of a slapshot fooled his opponent in white pads to tie the game.
From there, the game started to get a bit chippy; best evidenced by the fact that the players on each team that are arguably the most substantial in talent but most diminutive in size, Brendan Leipsic and Cory Conacher, dropped the gloves seconds later. That was the most important bit of action until the third period when things went just a little crazy.
With ten minutes remaining, it looked like the Crunch were about to take control of the game again. A bit of middle lane commotion in the defensive zone slot allowed for Erik Condra to score his fourth goal of the playoffs to give their team the lead again.
Things looked dire, and then, with the net empty, when the Marlies needed to click more than ever, they did.
Andrew Nielsen point shot, rebound over to Brendan Leipsic, buried into the back of the net. Tie game, 116 seconds left.
Seth Griffith shot, rebound over to Carl Grundstrom, buried into the back in the net. Marlies lead.. 98 seconds left.
Kasperi Kapanen takeaway, a juke, a deke, and a slip between the pads. An insurance tally… 83 seconds left.
Steven Olesky heading to an open net, 55 seconds left… Andreas Johnsson decides his two goals aren’t enough and drops the gloves, bringing the skilled forward come enforcer count to two as he took on Yanni Gourde.
With the win, Toronto guarantees themselves a trip back to upstate New York, and has them back in their series with a vengence. Their top players laid it all on the line and came up huge in all sorts of different ways, which is perhaps the most important part of the whole ordeal. This is, after all, a development team, and even if the players remaining are looking to be core supporters rather than foundational players, building up resiliance in games like this is incredibly key. Just as important as the comeback is the fact that they held control of the back 40 minutes of the game, outshooting their opponents 28-15 in that stretch.
But they’re going to need to keep this going for it to matter; a night like this is of little use if they follow it up by folding. They’ll have a quick turnaround for their next kick at the can; the next game is at Ricoh on Wednesday night (aka, tonight) at 7:00 PM.