TORONTO, ON – The Toronto Marlies came home for a winner-take-all game five Sunday after dropping their last two in Utica. Heading into the contest, The Marlies received some “Black Aces” from the National Hockey League. Andreas Johnsson and Travis Dermott were sent down to the Marlies after the Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This countered the Comets’ addition of Reid Boucher before game three from the Vancouver Canucks. Boucher made his presence known early as he got the first goal of game three. In game four, Boucher again got the first goal and also got the eventual game-winning goal.
Things got going quickly when Utica’s Zack MacEwen got an early penalty for holding, Johnsson setup a Pierre Engvall pass to Carl Grundstrom who scored the game-opening goal. Dermott was on the ice for that power play goal as well.
When the second period started up, things got chippy on the ice. Before the first minute was up, the first 4-on-4 occurred as Michael Chaput got two minutes for roughing while Martin Marincin got the original two minutes for high-sticking. A minute into this 4-on-4 action, Michael Carcone got a two-minute tripping penalty. Later in the period, there would be another four penalties called, each for something different, except for the last one that was another tripping call. Rarely are there seven penalties in a period for six different infractions. That shows the level of intensity that the game had reached.
The second goal of the game came from Grundstrom who netted his second goal of the game, this time off a tip-in on a direct pass from Johnsson. It is interesting to note that Johnsson and Grundstrom both played for Frolunda HC in Sweden, although they never played together while there. The second period would end with the Marlies up 2-0 and on a power play. This would mark the third game in a row that one team was working the shutout after 40 minutes of play.
The third period was now the Comets’ last chance to even the score and keep their hopes alive. Then the Marlies took a play from the Comets’ playbook and scored 56 seconds into the period on the power play. This time it was a little give and go from Dermott to Johnsson with Johnsson’s shot going in like a bullet. This could have taken the wind completely out of the Comets’ sails, but they kept the fight alive. They ended up outshooting the Marlies 16-13 in the period, but they could not find a way past Garret Sparks.
With the Comets attacking and just getting stoned by Sparks and blocked by his defense, the Comets tried something desperate. With over five minutes left in the game, they pulled Thatcher Demko for the extra attacker. At first, they could not get past the neutral zone and then the end of the game flashed through their minds. A pass was picked off, and Engvall put it in the empty net. However, it was not a good goal as Engvall had clearly gone in offside. After a review, the referees correctly called the goal off, too many boos in the stands.
With Demko back in net for the face-off, the Marlies kept up the attack. When the Comets finally got control of the zone, Demko raced off again to add the extra attacker. The highlight of this attack came when Cam Darcy took out Carcone and almost coughed up the puck to the Marlies. While that turned out to not be fatal for the Comets, the next play was. Ben Smith forced the Comets to cough up the puck and got it up to Dmytro Timashov who finally got the empty net goal. With only 2:11 to go, this game was over, and the Marlies made sure to kill the time to give Sparks his shutout.
In the first two games of the series, Sparks displayed some outstanding goaltending while Demko played very well. In the two games in Utica, Demko played extremely well while Sparks played so poorly that he got pulled in the first period of game three. In game five, Sparks returned to his league-leading form and made some saves that are highlight worthy. This included one save he made with his bare hand. Sparks ended up earning the first shutout of the series and the first star of the game. Demko also played an outstanding game, but the Marlies had so many bodies in front of him that he did not stand a chance.
In the end, the Marlies played like the number one team in the league, while at home. They will need to fix that before the next series. The Marlies will get a short break before going to round two versus the well-rested Syracuse Crunch. Game one is on Thursday night in Toronto. Follow @SinBinBeast on Twitter for live game updates.
Score: Comets 0 – Marlies 4
Shots: Comets 37 – Marlies 38
Penalties: Comets 7 – Marlies 4
Marlies goals were scored by Grundstrom (2), Johnsson and Timashov. Assists from Miro Aaltonen, Dermott, Engvall, Johnsson (2) and Smith.