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Toronto Marlies kill comeback, beat Bruins 4-3 in regulation and clinch a playoff spot

Phew, what a thriller of a game.

Toronto Marlies captain Ben Smith (#18) driving the net against the Providence Bruins
Credit: Thomas Skrlj

The Toronto Marlies kicked off the first half of a Marlies-Leafs double-header on Saturday, and boy was it a game. Last-minute game winners, goalie interference calls, breakaways, and young kids playing big roles — this one had it all.

The Marlies came out flying to start the game, let the Bruins come all the way back, but unlike five years ago didn’t break, winning 4-3 in regulation sending the blue and white to the second round of the playoffs against the New York Rangers. Sorry, got a little carried away at the end there. Ben Smith netted the game-winner with less than a minute to go in the game on the power play. Calle Rosen had one of his best all-around games, notching two assists, three shots, and playing well defensively. Andreas Johnsson had seven shots in the win, as one does.

As expected, a swath of Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins fans (whose team played the Toronto Maple Leafs later that night) littered the stands of Ricoh Coliseum. One such example is the family below of two clear generations. The gentleman is repping Sidney Crosby while the kids try on the new hotness: Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly.

Old School vs New School
Parent in Sidney Crosby jersey with kids in Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews jerseys
Hardev Lad

The Team

Forwards

Andreas Johnsson - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith (C)

Trevor Moore - Frederik Gauthier - Kyle Baun

Dmytro Timashov - Colin Greening (A) - Rich Clune (A)

Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco

Defense

Martin Marincin - Justin Holl (who is still wearing a full-face shield)

Andreas Borgman - Vincent LoVerde

Calle Rosen - Timothy Liljegren

Calvin Pickard gets his 26th start of the season, continuing the rotation with Garret Sparks. The two goalies have been stellar for the Marlies this season. Sparks and Pickard post the 2nd and 6th best save percentages in the AHL, as well as the 1st and 4th best GAA’s in the league.

On the other end, Zane McIntyre (no relation to Drew MacIntyre) gets the start for Providence, he has a cool .914 save percentage this season, 18th in the league.

First Period

Kyle Baun takes a tripping penalty on the back end of his first shift. A minute into the power play, Colin Greening persuades Zach Senyshyn into his own zone with a few slashes and gets called for it. Marlies have to kill a whole minute of 5v3. The PK group of Freddy the Goat, Martin Marincin, and Justin Holl kill off the 5v3. Andreas Johnsson, Ben Smith, Calle Rosen, and Vincent LoVerde kill the remaining minute of 5v4.

Yes, you heard that right, the Marlies are teaching rookie Calle Rosen to kill penalties. Johnsson has been doing it all season with the rest being old hats at the skill.

The Marlies appear to score after a scramble in front, but it was waved off due to goalie interference. Goalie McIntyre was irate at the play, and frankly, he was justified. He was clearly pushed down and into the net with the puck going over him.

1-0

The Marlies don’t let the goalie interference call get them down as on the next shift, Colin Greening puts the guys in blue up one for real. Dmytro Timashov executed a quick zone entry before dropping the puck to a rushing Vincent LoVerde. LoVerde rang the puck around the boards for Greening to grab at the other end. Greening throws the puck at McIntyre and it squeaks by and into the net. Thank you, Hockey Gods.

Timashov has been a zone-entry machine so far in this game. His speed has always been there but his ability to cross the blue-line and then make a quick decision to either find a teammate or initiate the cycle has much improved. Timashov still needs a little help getting the puck when he’s already in the offensive zone and when he’s playing defense, but his improved transition game is much appreciated.

With a delayed high-sticking penalty called to Bruins forward Adam Payerl, the Marlies get a good extended look with an extra man before the power play starts. On the actual power play, the first unit of Moore, Mueller, Smith, Johnsson, and Rosen maintain good zone time and nearly get a goal past the Bruins, but a diving save from the defenseman stops them. The second unit of Timashov, Brooks, Marchment, Bracco, and Liljegren show promise but are still a little rough around the edges. I would love to see how these five evolve in the coming years, especially if they stay as a power play group together.

After One

The Marlies crushed the first period. They go into the intermission with a one-goal lead, a 12-5 shot advantage and the lion’s share of the zone starts — excluding special teams — that I track with an old-school pencil and paper next to my laptop.

Second Period

The Bruins have been getting a lot more physical in the second period, which makes sense if you consider the fact that the Marlies have had the puck this entire game. Payerl throws an elbow at Ben Smith as the two jostle for positioning behind a battle in the corner.

2-0

Mason Marchment and the Kid-line turn a defensive-zone start into a goal with a great cycle play that opened up a chance for Marchy to drive to the net and loose a wrister that found the top corner. Rookies Rosen and Liljegren draw the assists on the goal. An all-rookie goal!

The Marlies have been running around a lot in their own zone after their 5th power play of the game. They seem to be out of their rhythm. Pickard has had to bail the team out a few times during this stretch, including stopping a breakaway with a clutch blocker save.

A mid-change forward line of Greening, Smith and Johnsson show off some great teamwork when the trio combined for a scoring chance. Greening threw the puck on net from the point to Smith who tipped the puck across the crease to a wide open Johnsson who was stopped in the nick of time by McIntyre.

2-1

WHL alumni Colby Cave gets the Bruins on the board with a wrister from the slot after being found wide open in front of the net by Anton Blidh. Borgman, who had to rush across to cover for LoVerde just coming off the bench, couldn’t get there in time.

2-2

Cave gets his second on a goal that Pickard definitely wants back. Blidh makes the play that leads to the goal once again. Who is this guy?

3-2

Marlies get a power play late in the period — Jordan Szwarz for slashing — and Andreas Johnsson makes him play. The tag-team of Smith and Mueller make a push toward the middle of the night allowing Mueller to make a falling pass to their trigger-man Johnsson who doesn’t miss.

After Two

The Marlies controlled the beginning of the period but let it slip away as the minutes went by. Surrendering two goals on mental lapses and scrambled changes isn’t a good look. The late goal by Johnsson may save the team from our wrath, but it probably won’t protect from an angry Keefe. Anyway, shots after two are 26-16, the Marlies increased their shot-count but also allowed the Bruins to get twice as many shots on goal as they did in the first.

Third Period

The third period starts at a little bit before 6:00pm and the stands look a lot more barren. A lot of fans seem to have left the game early presumably to grab a bite to eat before the Leafs game. You don’t know what you’re missing!

3-3

Marchment takes a somewhat silly penalty while battling with a defenseman in front of the net when he gets caught running interference in order to allow Adam Brooks a good chance at the net. Kenny Agostino gets released for a breakaway on the power play, and this time Pickard can’t get the blocker there in time. Tie game.

The Marlies’ kid line of Marchment, Brooks, and Bracco have been dynamic this afternoon (under friendly competition). Each know their role and where each other will be on the ice when they need an outlet. The passing plays they’ve been able to complete with the Rosen, Liljegren line have been especially fun to watch. Just need to learn how to finish.

MarMar... Don’t do this to me.

10 gets called for slashing with 1:05 left in the game. Sheldon Keefe uses his timeout to get his boys settled. They need to convert on this chance...

4-3

With 51.7 seconds left in the game, captain Ben Smith “puts his team on his back doe” and scores the go-ahead goal for the Marlies!!! Linemate for life (at least this season) Chris Mueller gets the primary assist, Calle Rosen earning a well-deserved second assist on the night as well. If you look closely, Bruins captain Tommy Cross tipped the puck past the left leg of McIntyre before it could get to Johnsson.

Toronto shuts down Providence from that point onward, Pickard only needing to make one save and the Marlies win!

Boxscore


A few hours later, the Laval Rocket lost 5-3 to the Belleville Senators. The Toronto win combined with the regulation loss by Laval equal the Marlies officially clinching a spot in the 2018 Calder Cup, the first team to do so this season!