It took 95 minutes of hockey play, but the Toronto Marlies finally won the second game of their division final playoff series against the Syracuse Crunch last night in a second overtime.
Frederik Gauthier scored the game winning goal after more than four hours had passed from the puck drop which started the game.
Marlies Lineup Saturday
Andreas Johnsson - Miro Aaltonen - Carl Grundstrom
Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith
Pierre Engvall - Frederik Gauthier - Colin Greening
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Trevor Moore
Martin Marincin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Vincent LoVerde
Andrew Nielsen - Timothy Liljegren
The forward group was unchanged from Thursday. The defence pairings were shuffled with Nielsen returning to the lineup. There was still no update on the specifics of Andreas Borgman’s injury, though Coach Sheldon Keefe said he would not play Sunday. We’re still waiting to find out if this is a new injury from Thursday’s game, or if he aggravated his previous injury such that it became too bad to play through again.
Garret Sparks starred in net while the Crunch made a change from Thursday and swapped out Eddie Pasquale, who let in five goals, in favour of Connor Ingram.
I’m not going to go through a typical period by period recap here because there were five periods of hockey in this game and it would be mostly a repetition of “Sparks makes an amazing save,” like this one, or three, actually.
The final tally of shots on goal was an incredible 57 to 47 in favour of the Marlies, yet only three actual goals were scored in the while game. If you consider there were also 12 penalties handed out (two coincidental), that’s a lot of great scoring chances that didn’t get past the goalies. I have to note this applies not just to Sparks, but also to Ingram. He can’t be faulted for the Crunch loss when he let in only two goals on 47 shots in a game which the official record shows lasted over four hours.
The Crunch actually scored the first goal of the game, but it wasn’t until the second period. The play started with a big stretch saucer pass which caught Marincin off guard. Matt Peca picked it up and had only Holl in front of him who took the position to block the passing opportunity with hope Sparks could stop an actual shot. It didn’t work out.
The game-tying goal was in the third period and was really fun. It starts with Moore getting a breakaway and then a shot which goes wide, but bounces back to him so he keeps possession. Three Crunch players all committed to following Moore up to the net. Only one stopped there, but even that one kept watching Moore, not what was happening behind him. When he finally decided to look back it was when Moore passed the puck and Marchment was already in place to take advantage of it. It was too late for the Crunch to do more than watch.
After the game, Marchment hinted they had thought about generating a scoring opportunity like this one. “We’ve been talking about him finding me in the soft spot there, and he did a great job and put it right on my tape. Perfect,” he said about Moore’s pass.
The first scary moment of overtime came when LoVerde went to the box for hooking, and the Marlies had to kill off a sudden death penalty. They did that, and then killed another in the second OT after a call against Grundstrom. In fact, no power play goals were scored in the game at all. That’s actually something to be concerned about for the Marlies. Keefe has already commented that his team needs to get power play goals early when they have the opportunity for an advantage in these games.
A second scary moment came in the final seconds of the first OT. Sparks blocked a shot, but the puck flew up in the air, floating over top of him and heading toward the net. Credit goes to Holl who batted it away, averting disaster.
While double overtime is a rare and fun treat, triple overtime—having experienced that last season—can get kind of obnoxious and boring. The players are so exhausted that they can’t play in any way that resembles their actual skill level. This game could have been over five hours in length had Gauthier not stepped up and ended it during the second OT.
Thankfully, he did, and it was one amazing goal.
“I tried the first shot and I fell and I’m just like, I’m gonna shoot it on net [again], and thank God it went in,” Gauthier said about his game winner.
Post Game Notes
At Thursday’s game, a few players openly commented they thought the ice was poor. I noticed there appeared to be an issue with humidity, as the floors of Ricoh Coliseum were slippery at the start of the game. I didn’t experience that on Saturday, but on the ice, the players appeared to frequently be losing edges and falling, which indicates they could not skate the way they were accustomed. However, that’s hockey at this time of year, and it impacts both teams equally, so no excuses there.
Was Garret Sparks the best player of the game? You would not find any Marlies player who would disagree with that. They all made a point to say he was the key factor to the win. “I think he made some huge saves and kept us in the game, even in overtime when they were buzzing in our zone. He just kept making save after save,” said Gauthier about Sparks.
There are a few agitators on the Crunch, and it’s clear the Marlies don’t like them. Daniel Walcott is often the guilty party on the Crunch. The second period started at four-on-four because Chris Mueller got tangled up with him in a scrum after the whistle blew for the end of the first period. Later, Travis Dermott also picked up a coincidental penalty for roughing with Walcott, something he and Walcott did in Thursday’s game as well.
UPDATE: Mat Bodie of the Crunch has been suspended two games for his hit on Mason Marchment in the third period of the game. It was clear retaliation for a legal hit by Marchment seconds earlier on Troy Bourke. Bodie’s hit was dangerously low level clipping on Marchment.
In a super quick turnaround, the Marlies are off to play tonight in Syracuse. Credit should go to the hard working equipment managers who did some heavy lifting after the game last night. Visibly looking quite harried, they obviously had far less time to pack up and load the team’s bags and gear than was planned. The team buses were already outside Ricoh Coliseum waiting to depart immediately after the extra-long game was over.
You can’t write about this series without thinking about last year and the Marlies and Crunch winning only games which they played on their home ice, but Gauthier says he has put that out of his mind. “I think that’s last year and we’re thinking about this year,” he said, while acknowledging there was some history repeating itself in the first round where they lost both of the road games. “We struggled against Utica on the road, and we’ve just gotta bear down and come up strong in these two games.”
Tonight’s puck drop will be at 7:00PM, that’s less than 23 hours after the end of yesterday’s game. We’ll keep you updated on Twitter with what is happening.