Through the first 5 minutes of play the Toronto Marlies and Albany Devils traded a couple of chances, and for Leafs' fans, it was heartening to see Kasperi Kapanen send William Nylander in on goal with a great backhand pass, but the Devils' goaltender Scott Wedgewood made a good save.
The Marlies went to the power play as Corbin MacPherson took a tripping penalty at 4:39, but Connor Brown nullified the advantage rather quickly with his own hooking call shortly thereafter. On 4-on-4, the Devils had a pair of good chances, and Antoine Bibeau had to be sharp.
Bibeau says pic.twitter.com/8dmWF9A6ms— AHL (@TheAHL) May 12, 2016
The first period ended with the teams in a scoreless tie, but there were certainly good chances to change that. Viktor Loov took a penalty for closing his hand on the puck in the defensive zone, but the Marlies killed that off. Later, Bibeau got caught misplaying the puck behind his net and had to scramble to keep the puck out of the net. The Marlies had one or two good looks, but nothing too dangerous. Overall, the Devils carried the more play, but it wasn't a huge advantage.
After 20 minutes, the shots were 6-6.
The Marlies struck early in the second period to open the scoring as Connor Carrick cashed in on the power play with Joseph Blandini in the box for delay of game. Arcobello picked up the lone assist.
Almost immediately following a great chance for the Devils just 4 minutes into the second frame was a scary incident that saw Loov get hit up high with a puck. He got up OK but his left ear was certainly bleeding, and he went off for some stitches.
Bibeau made an incredible save at 15:10 of the period as Matt Lorito slipped by Connor Carrick to move laterally across the crease and let got a low shot on goal. In a way, it was fortunate that Lorito couldn't elevate the shot, but credit is still certainly due to Bibeau for maintaining the Marlies' lead.
Huge pad save by Antoine Bibeau on Matt Lorito to prevent the Devils from tying things up. pic.twitter.com/i3FeKcNDaM— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) May 13, 2016
The Marlies' power play struck again at 6:38 of the same period, as Mark Arcobello, Josh Leivo, and Connor Brown teamed up to create a great passing play that saw Brown snap one five-hole on Wedgewood. The trio was being used as the team's top power play unit up to that point and although they didn't appear to have much going, they connected well to score on this particular play.
Wedgewood had to make a huge save with just under 9 minutes left in the second as Ben Smith was sent in all alone on a Connor Carrick pass while the teams were at 4-on-4.
Toronto began to take control of the game as the second period wore on, sometimes spending full shifts in the Albany zone, even at 5-on-5. It also wasn't entirely just the big guns doing so either, as the Marlies' 3rd and 4th lines got in on the action.
Some great work by Ben Smith on the forecheck managed to create a turnover at 5-on-5, and after Nikita Soshnikov snapped home a cross-ice one-timer to make it 3-0 Marlies.
Just as it looked like Albany was going to go away quietly, they responded with a rebound goal of their own. After Connor Carrick lost sight of the puck in his own zone and skated away from it, the Devils got it back to the point, where Seth Helgeson took a slapper, and Paul Thompson dove to tap the rebound past Bibeau.
After 40 minutes, the shots were 15-13 in favour of the Marlies.
Through roughly the first half of the third, Toronto continued to be the better team by protecting a lead the right way: by controlling more of the play. Even the Leafs' third line with Rich Clune, Ben Smith, and Nikita Soshnikov did great work that way.
Eventually, the Marlies capitalized on a strange bounce as a clearing attampt went off a referee and directly to Josh Leivo, who threw the puck out from behind the net to Brendan Leipsic, who waited just long enough before roofing it over Wedgewood.
Devils clear out attempt went off the ref, Leivo scooped it, fed Lepisic for the additional insurance. pic.twitter.com/b7oI1Ob2Ba— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) May 13, 2016
Toronto continued to frustrate Albany through the third period until the Devils pulled their goalie with just under 4 minutes to go, and Leivo cashed in to make it 5-1.
Individual player notes:
- Connor Carrick may have lost sight of the puck on the Devils' opening goal, but it was admittedly a weird bounce. Overall, he really impressed with his play with the puck, generating several great offensive chances, both by rushing the puck and make a couple sweet dishes. He has made a very good case to join the Leafs next season with his playoff play.
- Stuart Percy carries the puck well through the neutral zone, and makes smart passes with the puck. He deserves another look in the NHL, and really, it's about time that he shows that he's ready.
- Brendan Leipsic could probably already play a bottom-six role in the NHL. Same with Josh Leivo. OK, sure, they both already have, but I think they could do so for the Leafs full time next season. The only reason not to have them in the bigs next season is that you want them to get more playing time in the A, but at this point, I'm not so sure either player would benefit that much more from those couple extra minutes than they would the jump in competition.
- William Nylander didn't have a bad game, but he was quiet. He made a few good passes, took one or two decent shots, and generally, his line played well. He's a bit of a sniper. If he doesn't score, he might not stand out as much as you'd expect him to, but he does also do some little things well.
- Kasperi Kapanen had a good game. He had/created at least three good chances, and rushed the puck well. I like him on Nylander's wing.