TORONTO, ON – The Toronto Marlies took game one in an exciting overtime thriller. Do the Comets have any gas in the tank? Game Two answers that question.
This game started with a lot of vim and vigor. One would not have seen this coming after they had just played four periods the night before. A minute into the game and the Comets got the first penalty of the game for a delay of game infraction. The Comets did an excellent job of killing the penalty as the Marlies got a lot of shots off, but almost all of them were blocked. Once the penalty ended, the Comets came back to play and Andrew Cherniwchan made an excellent shot on net. Garret Sparks was barely able to grab that shot for the save. Not long later, Justin Holl toke down Tanner MacMaster and they swiped the net and Sparks out of the way.
Thatcher Demko played the first period very well in goal for Utica. However, when the Marlies get rolling, they are not often stopped. Frederik Gauthier chased the puck into the corner and made the pass back to an open Pierre Engvall. Engvall scored to get his first AHL playoff goal with a shot through the five-hole.
Halfway through the period, the Comets and Marlies traded penalties to end up in a 4-on-4 situation. The Comets charged in and Michael Carcone did the hard work while Cam Darcy got the empty side of the net to tie the game. When the Comets penalty ended, they used the extra man, but could not beat Sparks a second time and the power ended without further damage.
With five minutes left in the first period, the Comets found themselves on a 5-on-3 penalty kill due to avoidable calls. The Marlies were not going to let this third power play go to waste and Dmytro Timashov finally puts it in the net off his own rebound. The Marlies were not able to capitalize on the remaining power play time. They ended up getting a penalty with about 58 seconds left in the period and would carry the remaining time into the second period.
With the extra man, the Comets ran into the brick wall that is the Marlies penalty kill team. No damage was done and Gauthier came back on the ice with his time served. The Marlies continued to dominate the Comets with attempted shots and blocking shots. Demko didn’t miss a beat as he remained solid, much like he did in Saturday’s game. The hard part is that a goalie can only win a game for a team when there is offense from his own team. That was not happening throughout the second period.
By the halfway mark of the period, it was almost all Marlies on the attack. They led with 4-1 shots on net, with many shots blocked by both teams. Sparks had to remain alert even though the score said he only faced a single shot on goal. Demko did everything he could as the Comets got two back-to-back penalties in the first half. He did have help from his defense, even when the offense was missing.
The second half of the second period was all about the goalies. Sparks saw more shots from the Comets and had to stand on his head a few times to make saves, much like what Demko did in the first half. The second half almost had a penalty drought as both teams almost stayed out of the box. Wacey Hamilton got two minutes for tripping Gauthier right in front of the Marlies’ net. While the Marlies tried to get the two-point lead, Demko denied them repeatedly. Then with 17 seconds left in the period, Adam Brooks got two minutes for slashing. The Marlies again take a penalty into the next period.
The Marlies did themselves no favors to start the third period. Seven seconds into the frame and Martin Marincin got called for delay of game, putting the Marlies on a 5-on-3 penalty kill. The Comets knew this was their chance and they used it! With time running out on the two extra attackers, Michael Chaput got his second goal of the series on a screened shot.
The Comets still had 30 seconds on the second penalty and stayed on the attack. As the penalty ended, Marincin came out of the box, skated into the Marlies zone to get the loose puck. Marincin quickly passed it up to Gauthier, who took it into the Comets end and passed to the open Colin Greening. Greening put the puck in the net from the hash marks into the top corner, as Demko went down for the low shot that he misread. As a result, after the penalties ended, both teams had scored and the Marlies were up still by one goal.
The game was still within reach for the Comets at this point. No more penalties were called for the rest of the game, so both teams just played hockey. The game went from end to end as each side pushed for the next goal. Neither team had much of a sustained attack through the next half of the period. Both goalies were again playing very well and the game could quickly have ended with a 3-2 score, like the night before.
As the game moved into the final 10 minutes of play, the Marlies shifted into their next gear, something they have done very well throughout the season. The first part was to take back control of the game. The second part was to open their lead, which Carl Grundstrom accomplished with a goal right off the face-off from Trevor Moore’s pass. The Marlies now had their first two-goal lead of the series and never looked back.
The Comets kept on the pressure as they amassed more shots than the Marlies in a period for the first time in the series. They pulled Demko early with 3:22 to go and they took the puck to Sparks. With the best penalty kill in the AHL, the Marlies defended strongly and shot a few pucks towards the other end. Finally, Moore was rewarded as he outraced his man to get to Greening’s pass up, and he put it in the empty net to cement the win with 59 seconds on the clock.
To their credit, the Comets kept on the pressure, but could not beat Sparks and his defensive line to get another goal. The Marlies got the win and took a 2-0 lead in the series to Utica for game three. The Marlies were the best road team in the AHL this season, and they have a 2-2 record playing in Utica. Given this is the playoffs there are no sure things. The Marlies will have to play hard to end the series in Utica. In the end, the Comets need a sweep on their home ice to bring the series back to Toronto for a series-deciding fifth game.
Score: Comets 2 – Marlies 5
Shots: Comets 25 – Marlies 29
Penalties: Comets 7 – Marlies 4
Comets goals were scored by Chaput and Darcy. Assists from Carcone, Nikolay Goldobin, and MacMaster.
Marlies goals were scored by Engvall, Greening, Grundstrom, Moore, and Timashov. Assists from Gauthier (2), Greening, Marincin (2), Moore, Chris Mueller and Ben Smith.
Game 3 is Wednesday, April 25 at 7:00 pm in Utica. Follow @SinBinBeast on Twitter for live game updates.