TORONTO, Ont. – Less than 24 hours after the Toronto Marlies & Lehigh Valley Phantoms played a back-and-forth affair, the teams met again for game two of the Eastern Conference Final, in a game that would be more defensive than run-and-gun.
After their first power play, the Marlies were up 9-1 in shots and Alex Lyon had to be very aware of keeping the Marlies off the board. When it seemed like the Phantoms would get no offense in the period, Mark Friedman brought the puck in from T.J. Brennan and buried it short-side on Garret Sparks. After nearly eight solid minutes of play, the Phantoms got the first goal of the game and an early lead.
After the goal, the Marlies regained control of the game and continued to pelt Lyon with shots, although not many were actual chances. After a rare rush by the Phantoms, they found themselves on the penalty kill again, this time for goalie interference. With lots of bodies in front of Lyon, the shot was taken by Calle Rosen at the blueline. As the puck came in, Trevor Moore got his stick on it to tip it in past Lyon and tied the game at 1-1. While the goal was initially credited to Ben Smith, it was eventually restored to Moore for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
The player of the period was Lyon. Sparks only faced nine shots and allowed one in early. Meanwhile, Lyon faced 20 shots, with only one making its way through the wickets.
When the tide turned to give the Marlies the next two penalties, the Phantoms were ready to use the extra man to their advantage, but, the league-best Marlies penalty kill team did not let many shots get through to Sparks. The best scoring chance for either team during those penalties came from Frederick Gauthier and Andreas Johnsson. They pressed really hard in the Phantoms’ zone and almost beat Lyon with the short-handed chance.
After the second 20 minutes was over, it was both goalies that were the stars. They combined to save all 19 shots in the period and seemed like duplicate brick walls. The energy of both teams was a lot higher than the first period and that led to a lot of shots, but most of them did not make it to the goalies.
In the third period, the game became a little more wide-open on the shot counter and scoresheet, with both teams putting up 23 shots and a pair of goals on the scoreboard.
The first goal of the period came from Mikhail Vorobyev, who buried the puck off a giveaway by Travis Dermott in the Marlies end. It was a team effort though as Dermott gave away the puck, but it was Sparks that poke-checked it right to Vorobyev’s stick, and he could not miss that net.
Toronto made up for the mistake in their end just 12 seconds later when Carl Grundstrom scored unassisted to tie the game at 2-2. Grundstrom had an open Johnsson on the left wing, but instead took the shot and scored top corner.
Neither team could crack the scoresheet during the rest of regulation, which meant overtime hockey was in the offing.
The Marlies controlled most of the game but did escape to play in the extra frame. And then it ended. 1:18 gone in the overtime and the Phantoms score, or so they thought. It turned out that the goal judge was reacting to Justin Holl’s stick hitting the mesh after putting the puck over the net. Due to the goal call, the referees had to look at the tape to ensure the right answer. After a five minute discussion, the goal was called off.
The Phantoms continued to press this advantage, but the Marlies also had their chances. The Marlies had their first great chance just a few minutes later, but Lyon was equal to the task, making the saves look easy.
With about 11 minutes left, the Phantoms came with a spurt of their own, putting several chances in on Sparks. That series ended when Sparks made a beautiful windmill save on Brennan to stop the play and the crowd went nuts.
When play resumed, after a couple of false starts, the Phantoms tried to keep the pressure on. But, the Marlies continued to break up the plays and sending the Phantoms back to their end. After more than a minute of this, it seemed like it was time to buckle up for a long night as neither team was getting an advantage.
As they say, looks can be deceiving. Johnsson broke up the play in the Marlies’ end, sending the puck back to Rosen, who made a quick pass up to a deep Grundstrom. Seeing the open Johnsson on the other wing, Grundstrom gets it into the zone and passed it back to the now rushing Rosen. Rosen quickly passed it over to the open Johnsson, who sent it right back to the suddenly open Miro Aaltonen in the slot, and the puck was in the net.
The Marlies have now won seven straight home games this playoff run, and their 12th straight including the 2017 playoffs. There are only three AHL teams that have won more in a row: Providence Bruins won 16 straight (1997-2000); Philadelphia Phantoms won 14 straight (2004-08); the Cleveland Barons won 13 (1939-43).
Score: Phantoms 3 – Marlies 3 (OT)
Shots: Phantoms 37 – Marlies 47
Penalties: Phantoms 5 – Marlies 2
Phantoms goals were scored by Friedman and Vorobyev. Assists from Brennan and Danick Martel.
Marlies goals were scored by Aaltonen, Grundstrom, and Moore. Assists from Johnsson, Chris Mueller, and Rosen (2).