Dec. 1: Marlies 3 vs. Rochester 2 (OT)
Forward lines:: Aucoin-Kadri-Ashton, Colborne-Deschamps-Frattin, Hamilton-Zigomanis-Ryan
Defence pairings: Holzer-Blacker, Ranger-Gysbers, Kostka-Gardiner
Goaltenders: Scrivens (Win, 61:06 minutes played, 36 SV, 2 GA), Owuya (0:00)
Even as the NHL lockout stretches beyond its 11th week, Toronto fans were still treated to an entertaining game on a Saturday night. Long-suffering Leaf supporters would argue that the brand of hockey that was on display before a reported sellout at Ricoh Coliseum was an upgrade over the product normally staged at Air Canada Centre a few blocks away.
The Marlies squeaked out a 3-2 overtime win over the Rochester Americans, giving Toronto their second victory in as many days over the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. The come-from-behind win was propelled by a goal by defenceman Paul Ranger with 4:48 remaining in the third period, and capped off by Nazem Kadri’s game-winner – his second tally of the game – in overtime.
“This is the type of game that could turn a season around,” said Kadri, who was recognized in a pre-game ceremony for his Player of the Week honours earned for the week ending November 18. “We’re resilient, we’re relentless. It seems like every single time we’re down a goal, this team seems to fight back and claw their way back into the lead.”
It was only the third time in 9 outings this season in which the Marlies won a game when trailing after two periods.
Toronto’s special teams did not bode well over the early part of the game, particularly the first period when the Marlies surrendered the opening goal on a power-play, while combining for only two shots on goal on a pair of man advantages themselves.
The team’s fortunes reversed late in the second period when Kadri converted a pass from Keith Aucoin for a power-play marker. “We were just trying to focus on one side with both (power-play) units, and we kind of drifted away with what we wanted to do, just because everyone was so focused on the one side to work off,” said Kadri of the earlier struggles in the game. “But once we realized that we could just support the puck, once we started to move the puck quickly, things started to work out.”
Toronto’s euphoria at tying the game was short-lived as Rochester regained the lead just 72 seconds later when Alex Biega’s shot was accidentally deflected by Marlies defender Korbinian Holzer passed goaltender Ben Scrivens. In the final 20 minutes of regulation the Marlies peppered a barrage of shots at Rochester goalie David Leggio – sixteen shots in total. Ranger finally connected with a slap shot from the right point to knot the score once again.
“We were late in the game and down by a goal; when that starts to happen we take a few more chances here and there to generate some offence,” said Ranger. “I stepped around a winger, and it was a perfect pass, I took (the puck) across and just wired it and buried it home.
Kadri’s overtime winner capped off a cross-ice pass from Matt Frattin, who – for the moment – has a single assist on the season to go along with seven goals. But Frattin clearly should have been awarded the second assist on Kadri’s earlier goal. AHL officials may still correct the scoring on the assist that has initially, and incorrectly, been credited to Mike Kostka.
The second half of the game saw its share of fisticuffs, with Rochester’s Marcus Foligno winning a clear decision in a bout with Toronto’s Will Acton. “Our guys have no fear,” said coach Dallas Eakins. “I certainly know that Will Acton has scraped and clawed for everything he’s gotten in hockey, and he’s not going to back down from anyone. I think that’s an important thing, no matter how big the man or how strong, we’re not going to back down. You saw that from Greg Scott when he dropped (Rochester’s Joe) Finley with one punch. We’re never going to turn away.”
The heated rivalry that will see the Marlies and Amerks duel ten times by the end of the season contains as much bitterness as the current feud between the NHL and NHLPA that has seen the cancellation of 442 games to this point in the year.
But if Saturday night’s matchup is any indication, Toronto fans don’t have to await the NHL’s return to witness exciting hockey.
(insert your own joke about lack of exciting Leafs hockey when the lockout ends, here).
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca
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