TORONTO, Ont. – Momentum is a fickle thing in hockey. Momentum in the playoffs is an entirely different beast.
It stood to reason once the Syracuse Crunch got the first goal of game two, they were in control of things. But, Toronto scored the game-tying goal in the third Saturday and won in double overtime. Heading into game three Sunday evening, all the momentum was on Toronto’s side.
The Crunch needed to take control of the game from the start. The Marlies wanted to make their presence known. Both sides came out strong, but the Marlies got a little too excited as Pierre Engvall got two minutes for roughing only 30 seconds into the game. The Marlies put Calvin Pickard in for his first AHL playoff start in his career, and he started strong as he made two quick saves on that early power play.
After playing superbly on Saturday, Connor Ingram got the start again for Syracuse on Sunday. Unfortunately for Ingram, the momentum he built up through five periods Saturday, did not carry over to Sunday. He ended up getting the bulk of the work in the first period, facing 11 shots on net and making nine saves. The first Marlies goal of the evening came when Chris Mueller put in the rebound from Justin Holl’s shot from the blueline. Roughly a minute later, Carl Grundstrom got his fourth goal of the playoffs after a beautiful tic-tac-toe play that he started in the Marlies end.
When the second period started, the Marlies applied pressure and Dominik Masin popped the puck out of play. The Marlies got some solid chances, but Ingram was back on form and kept them out. A short time after the Crunch penalty kill ended, they went back on the box for a faceoff violation after Troy Bourke refused to put his stick down for the face-off. Again, Ingram was solid and kept the Marlies to just a two-goal lead.
By the halfway mark of the second period, the Marlies were again outshooting the Crunch and had limited the Crunch to only three shots in the period. It was around this time that the Marlies struck again. Miro Aaltonen got a long pass from Andreas Johnsson and put the puck in the goal after Ingram over committed with a slide.
In the first period, Mathieu Joseph was easily the best Crunch player on the ice, but was found guilty of cross-checking in the corner. The Crunch managed to kill off the penalty, but the Crunch penalty killers got stuck on the ice with a hard pressing Marlies team. A fresh Colin Greening came in and buried the loose puck behind a sprawling Ingram, who was hoping for one last gasp from his tired crew. It was now 4-0 with six minutes left in the period.
As the Crunch increased their shot count, Pickard had to pick up his pace. With the crowd almost completely out of the game, there was a scrum in the Marlies’ corner for the puck. It popped out to an open Erik Cernak, who made no mistake to break the Pickard shutout. The period would end with the Marlies up 4-1.
The third period started with the Marlies on a penalty kill due to Mason Marchment’s tripping call very late in the second period. Pickard had to make a few saves on the penalty kill, but the Crunch were definitely on the attack. It is worth noting that Pickard is not as much a backup as he is one-half of the best goalie pairs this season in the league.
While the Crunch stayed toe-to-toe with the Marlies from shots on goal perspective, they could not keep pace with the scoring.
The first goal of the third period came when Trevor Moore just plain out-speeds all the rest of the skaters and sinks it past Ingram on the breakaway. An interesting note is that Pickard, in his first playoff start in his professional career, got a secondary assist on this goal.
With less than seven minutes left, Johnsson sped down and took tried a deke on Ingram, but Ingram had the save. When Johnsson came back on the ice for his next shift, he again got a breakaway chance. This time he took the shot instead of going for the deke and was rewarded with a goal. With less than five minutes left the Marlies led comfortably 6-1.
The final goal of the evening came with 100 seconds left in the contest when Mueller found Moore wide-open, and he buried his second goal of the night.
For Toronto on this night, 13 different skaters (including netminder Calvin Pickard) collected points. Five of the 13 who collected points had multiple-point efforts.
The loss marks only the second home loss in the playoffs in the last two seasons for the Crunch. Compounding things, it matched the Crunch’s largest margin of defeat ever in a home playoff game; it had occurred four times previously, most recently in an 8-2 loss — also to Toronto — exactly 10 years ago (May 6, 2008). So far in the series, the Crunch have been outscored 15-6 in the series and 9-2 in the two games this weekend.
Score: Marlies 7 – Crunch 1
Shots: Marlies 30 – Crunch 19
Penalties: Marlies 4 – Crunch 3
Marlies goals were scored by Aaltonen, Greening, Grundstrom, Johnsson, Moore (2) and Mueller. Assists from Aaltonen (2), Engvall, Frederik Gauthier, Grundstrom, Holl, Johnsson (2), Timothy Liljegren, Vincent LoVerde, Mueller, Pickard and Ben Smith.
Crunch goal was scored by Cernak with assists from Kevin Lynch and Carter Verhaeghe.
Game four is on Tuesday at 7:00 pm in Syracuse. Follow @SinBinBeast on Twitter for live game updates.