Game 2: Marlies Rally Behind Gauthier's Game-Winner in Double-OT Thriller

Toronto (2) Syracuse (1) Final (2OT)

By: Gordon Brown

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Marlies lead the series 2-0.

Saturday afternoon marked Game 2 of an enticing Calder Cup Playoff matchup between the high-flying Syracuse Crunch and Toronto Marlies. 

Following a 6-4 win in Game 1 to extend their playoff home winning streak to 4 games, the Marlies welcomed Syracuse back for another fast-paced matchup before the series is sent south of the border.

Dmytro Timashov, Trevor Moore, and Martin Marincin each entered the day with 6 points in 6 total playoff games, and had aspirations to build upon their significant contributions. Marlies captain, Ben Smith, was not far behind with 5 points to his name.

Subsequently, the Crunch have been relying on goals by the committee to give their opponents multiple offensive outlets to fret over. It has proven as a testament to their overwhelming style of selflessness and depth, very similar to the Marlies lineup scheme.

Garret Sparks was the undoubted net-minder for Toronto, while Connor Ingram received the nod in between the pipes for Syracuse in place of Game 1 starter, Eddie Pasquale.

As the action got underway, it appeared the foot speed of either team would continue to play a primary role in the best-of-seven series. The Crunch hemmed Toronto in their own zone for a large portion of the opening frame, however, the Marlies countered with several scoring chances of their own. 

Trevor Moore created a glorious opportunity to give Toronto an early lead after stick-handling his way through defenders, only to come up short thanks to strong back-checking by several Crunch players. An ankle-breaking toe drag nearly turned into a highlight reel goal for one of the Marlies’ most potent playoff producers.

Later in the frame, Andreas Johnsson sent Carl Grundstrom for a breakaway and nearly finished the play off with a slick deke against Connor Ingram, only to be turned aside.

After twenty minutes, the score remained deadlocked at zero’s while the Crunch held a 14-9 shot advantage.

The second period featured more of the same until the ice was broken by Matthew Peca near the mid-way point of the frame.

Mitchell Stephens, 33rd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, sent a lobbing breakout pass to connect with Matthew Peca, who had a two-on-one to enter the offensive zone with. Once in his possession, Peca utilized his teammate's presence and successfully faked passing before rifling a wrist shot over the glove-hand of Garret Sparks. 

Tempers boiled over towards the end of the frame, as Travis Dermott and Daniel Walcott receiving matching roughing minors. A seemingly poor tradeoff for the Marlies in particular.

When push came to shove, Toronto was prepared for a hard-fought third period with hopes of finding an equalizer…

It took all but 6:52 for the Marlies to fulfill that destiny, all thanks to Mason Marchment’s 2nd tally of the playoffs. After Trevor Moore was stopped in his tracks by Ingram, he reclaimed possession of the puck and threaded a tape-to-tape pass for Marchment to devour—and so he did, with a perfectly placed one-timer upstairs for the game-tying goal. 

Furthermore, the Marlies nearly stole the game with a late-period goal on a seemingly vacant net until Connor Ingram sprawled out from behind the net to make a save, essentially forcing an overtime as a result. 

The extra frame definitely lived up to the hype, with chances being traded at either end of the rink. Despite several clear-cut opportunities, both Garret Sparks and Connor Ingram prevailed to keep the game deadlocked at 1-apiece.

With under 0:10 seconds left before the buzzer, Syracuse looked poised to play spoiler in front of Toronto’s home crowd. A scramble ensued in front of Garret Sparks and his crease, where the puck nearly found its way through several bodies before being swatted off the goal-line in midair by Adam Brooks.

As you may have guessed, this game was destined for a double-overtime.

Another long and restless overtime period ensued with no reasonable end in sight. The clock wound down to the final minutes and what seemed like an inevitable third overtime frame loomed on the horizon.

It took a couple of bounces and a whole lot of offensive zone pressure—but one of the masked menaces had to fall. 

Freddy “The Goat” Gauthier had to find daylight behind Connor Ingram’s last-gasp attempt at stopping the dagger from piercing Syracuse’s hopes of sending the series back home evened up at 1-1. He received the puck nearly parallel to the goal-line following a scramble in front of the rookie goaltender, who was left stranded out of position by the time Gauthier obtained possession. 

Time appeared to move in slow motion as the arena patrons collectively held their breaths. Rest assured, Gauthier made no mistake and closed the game out with a quick flick of the wrist from his knees, immediately making it worthwhile for everyone who chose to stick around for five periods of end-to-end playoff action.

Despite tonight’s gruelling effort, Game 3 is still set to go tomorrow, Sunday night, at 7:00 p.m. EST in Syracuse’s home barn—Oncenter War Memorial Arena.

Marlies head coach, Sheldon Keefe, was not worried about his troops being ready for another big game tomorrow when asked about his team’s state of exhaustion. Lineup decisions will be made tomorrow morning with consideration of each individual player's health in mind, there are several fresh and able bodies prepared for the opportunity nonetheless.

Andreas Borgman has been ruled out, while Calle Rosen is nearing a return to action according to head coach Keefe.

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca 

On Twitter - @GordBrown_ 

Photo Credit: @torontomarlies