ECF Game 3: Marlies Take 3-0 Stranglehold of the Series; 8th Straight Victory Ties Franchise Record

Toronto (5) Lehigh Valley (0) Final

By: Gordon Brown

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Marlies lead the series 3-0.

Following a three day break, the AHL Eastern Conference Finals shifted to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Lehigh Valley welcomed the Toronto Marlies into town for Game 3 of what had been an even-steven series up to this point. Despite Toronto’s obvious 2-0 stranglehold after taking care of home-ice in Games 1 and 2, Wednesday was touted to be a pivotal point in the best-of-seven showdown.  

According to the Marlies’ leading scorer on game-day, Andreas Johnsson (3G, 8A), Lehigh Valley’s home crowd should not be underestimated in any capacity,

“They’re going to have the home crowd, they were the best team on home ice so we have to be prepared.”

The Phantoms were hoping to gain a spark from their faithful fans, however, a quick goal against appeared to drain the enthusiasm dry out of the rink very early on in the contest. 

Johnsson entered the night on an offensive tear with 7 points in his last 4 games—and absolutely no signs of slowing down. As the action got underway, the 23-year-old Swede wasted no time adding to those very totals. He stripped Travis Sanheim and emerged victorious from a puck battle behind the net before threading a pass to the eventual goal-scorer, Carl Grundstrom, in the slot area for a quick one-timer past Alex Lyon.

Additionally, this occurred just 1:01 following the opening puck drop to devastate the hopeful Phantoms. If Lehigh Valley has any hope turning this series around, they surely had to avoid facing elimination scenarios for as long as humanly possible.  

The next flare of action laid dormant until the second period rolled around and Toronto revitalized their attack with a pair of goals.

Early on in the frame, Andreas Johnsson continued his hot-streak and added his first goal of the series… which should bode well for his Marlies going forward, considering what a threat he’s already been up to this point.

Toronto’s lead was increased to 3-0 after Adam Brooks attempted a short angle shot at the net, only for Alex Lyon to turn it aside for a juicy rebound opportunity. Battling his way towards the net, the hard work and determination of Mason Marchment soon paid off as the rebound found his stick beside the net for an easy strike against a sprawling goaltender at the 12:32 mark.

If the Phantoms wanted to salvage this decision, they would have to do so with a big showing in the final twenty minutes of regulation time… but that did not exactly go according to plan.

Lehigh Valley’s starting net-minder, Alex Lyon, took a major penalty and received a game misconduct for subtly kicking Toronto’s Mason Marchment as he laid injured on the ice, forcing an unprepared Dustin Tokarski into the crease in an emergency situation midway through the period.

The incumbent goaltender allowed two goals on just 6 shots against during a mere 10:19 body of work, including the very first shot he faced. It just so happens that Ben Smith notched both tallies in succession to bury the Phantoms and effectively empty the arena’s seats within a span of 2:21.

When it was all said and done, Garret Sparks had only faced 16 shots and walked away with a shutout after a perfect night in between the pipes.

Toronto’s 5-0 victory meant the Marlies had tied a franchise record with their 8th straight win, on top of taking a commanding 3-0 series lead with a chance to sweep on Friday night. The Phantoms will enter Game 4 with their back’s against the wall and facing elimination in front of what should be a raucous, orange-dominant hometown crowd.

Puck drop is set at 7:05 p.m. EST on Friday night at the PPL Center.

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Photo Credit: @TorontoMarlies