The Toronto Marlies started strong and never took their foot off the gas, beating the Syracuse Crunch 7-1 in Game 3 of their seven game series. Andreas Johnsson led the team in points (1g, 2a) and shots (5). Trevor Moore potted home two goals, and looked dominant all over the ice in the game as well.
On defense, the Marlies had moments where they looked threatened by the Crunch, but for the rest of the game they smothered their opponents in the neutral zone, holding them to only 19 shots in a game they were leading for over 56 minutes.
“Toronto schooled us tonight.” - Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx.
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 only lineup change from Saturday’s game in Toronto to this one in Syracuse is that Calvin Pickard gets his first start in this post-season. Garret Sparks played a full 95:10 in last night’s double-overtime win. Considering the way the skaters have played in the series so far head coach Sheldon Keefe probably felt he could afford to give his NHL-calibre starter a break for the first game on the road, and instead put in his NHL-calibre backup.
In contrast, Syracuse Crunch rookie Connor Ingram gets his second straight start in this series after an incredible 55-save performance in his five periods of play on Saturday. With starting goalie Eddie Pasquale sporting a .840 save percentage in these playoffs, going back to the rookie probably is the best move for the Crunch.
After having to kill an early penalty to Engvall for roughing, the Marlies come out on the next shift and bury a quick dagger into the side of the Crunch. After Smith wins a puck battle along the boards, Holl throws the puck on net from the point. His shot is stopped by Ingram but the rebound is scooped up by Mueller and into the back of the net for the game’s opening goal, only 3:23 in.
48 seconds later, Grundstrom gives the Marlies the ever-important two-goal lead on the road with his fourth goal of the playoffs. Johnsson starts the play by walking into the offensive zone, looking for one of his teammates. His initial pass to Aaltonen to his right side fails, but he quickly wins back the loose puck and sends it to Aaltonen, who is now on his left. Aaltonen, who is particularly good at moving the puck in the offensive zone, sees Grundstrom on the opposite side of the net. Grundstrom finishes the play by chipping the puck up and over the goalie’s pad, something he’s done consistantly in his time here.
The Marlies kicked the Crunch up and down the ice in that period, out-shooting their opponents 11-3 despite taking two penalties, Engvall for roughing and Dermott for hooking. Todd Crocker and Bob McGill on the TV and radio broadcast called this their best period of the post-season, and they are likely correct, it was a near-perfect road period.
The Marlies get an early power play of their own to start the period when Dominik Masin was called for shooting the puck over the glass. The Marlies fail to score on that advantage, but they get a second chance when Troy Bourke takes a faceoff violation penalty after being told off for not putting his stick down in the defensive zone by the linesman twice.
Personally, I hate this rule. I haven’t been a fan of it all season because it makes linesmen that much more annoying, and it shouldn’t be worth the same as cross-checking, hooking, tripping, and the other penalties of the like. I’m glad we haven’t had to deal with a call like this all playoffs in the NHL, and from the best of my memory in the AHL either. Anyway, I digress, back to the game.
Oh, hey! The Marlies are leading in shots 18-6 halfway through the second period!
The top line gets a second goal on the night when Johnsson feeds Aaltonen during an odd-man rush for a tap in goal. Marincin and Grundstrom start the play with a strong, and fast breakout in their own zone. Johnsson speeds ahead of the defenders in the neutral zone and picks up the puck along the boards. Cal Foote plays the 2-on-1 terribly and Aaltonen gets a tap in for his first goal of the playoffs.
Mathieu Joseph looks really fustrated. Had a great game 2 and had nothing to show for it. He now takes a cross-checcking penalty on Dermott— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) May 7, 2018
With Mathieu Joseph a few strides away from the penalty box, and Masin without a stick, Greening — who was rewarded with some power play time at the end of the two minutes — buries home a rebound passed to him by Freddy the Goat in front of the net to give the Marlies an even more commanding four-goal lead. Engvall gets the second assist on the play.
The fourth line with Liljegren and Marincin get caught late in a shift, and the Crunch make them pay. Cernak takes a pass from former Maple Leafs draft pick Carter Verhaeghe, after a good battle in the corner that is won by Kevin Lynch, and smashes home the first goal of the game for the Crunch from the slot. This was only the eight shot against on Pickard through 37 minutes of hockey, and despite coming out to the top of the blue paint to cut down the angle, he couldn’t reach up with his blocker to parry the shot away.
As the period ends, Marchment takes a tripping penalty on goalie Ingram. The play gets blown dead with only 2.6 seconds left in the frame, but the drama doesn’t stop there, as Joseph and Stephens get into a wrestling match on the ice with Marchment and Liljegren. There are no penalties called on the play, with the exception of Marchment’s initial tripping call.
The Marlies look night and day from not only game two against the Crunch but in both games in Utica. There was a serious fear that the Marlies would not be able to an atmosphere that is similar to Utica in Syracuse, but those fears are long gone. The Marlies won the shot battle in the second (10-7) and now have a lead of 21-10 after 40 minutes. Oh, it’s also 4-1.
The Marlies kill off the penalty fairly easily, but require Pickard to make a pretty decent save. Smith makes up for it by immediately skating back the other way with the puck and nearly scoring on Ingram.
Pickard has had to work more in this period than he had to in either of the previous periods. Not in terms of total shots, but the quality of chances by the Crunch has slowly increased as the games gone on. He made on on Cernak late in the second, again on Stephens on the power play to start the third, and had to make a great pad save on Joseph, who was streaking in all alone.
Trevor Moore will be an NHL player next season. There, just putting that in writing for posterity. Anyway, he scores his second goal, and eighth point in these playoffs when he steals the puck from Cernak at the offensive blue line, skates in all alone, and snipes top-shelf glove on Ingram.
The next 10 minutes see the Marlies do what they do best; shut down a game defensively. With five players behind the puck, and a swarm of sticks to get through, the Crunch get a few chances, but nothing dangerous to cause the Marlies much concern. Johnsson is able to pick off a pass in the neutral zone, and get loose for a breakaway, but he gets stopped by Ingram, who has played well in front of a pourous defense. You can’t blame him for the chances he’s had to face.
On the next shift, Johnsson steals a puck at his own blue line from a Crunch defenseman, breaks in all alone, and TAKES A SLAPSHOT ON INGRAM, beating him to the blocker side. Das just rude, Johnny!
Moore takes a hooking penalty with four minutes left in the game, comes out two minutes later and gets a breakaway on Ingram. He is stopped after he dekes his way out of the play. The puck comes back out of the zone, but would come back in on the same shift where Mueller feeds Moore for a tap-in from in front of the net off the rush.
The clock winds down, and the Marlies win their first playoff game in Syracuse in a decade. They also take a 3-0 choke-hold on the series, that could see itself over on Tuesday night in New York.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Charlotte Checkers are currently destroying each other in a penalty-filled series. The Marlies could potentially have a full week off before they have to play again.