For the second consecutive night, the Syracuse Crunch and the Toronto Marlies needed extra hockey to determine an outcome. On Saturday, it was Toronto prevailing in overtime as a Dmytro Timashov wrister from the top of the left circle eluded Eddie Pasquale at the 3:18 mark of the bonus session. With the 3-2 win, Toronto crept back within two points of the Crunch in the standings.
It wasn’t a total loss for Syracuse. They gained at least one point in their 11th straight home game. Coupled with a loss (finally) by the Rochester Americans, they moved within two points of first place with two games in hand. The Crunch and the Americans meet twice next week (Saturday and Sunday) as they continue to battle for the division lead.
The game on Saturday between Syracuse and Toronto picked right up from where Friday night’s game ended. The teams played each other tightly, limiting offensive chances and the goalies made several key saves. Syracuse rolled out the same line-up as they had on Friday with Eddie Pasquale between the pipes. Toronto made a couple of changes including in net as Kasimir Kaskisuo got the start. The Finnish netminder was the difference in the game as he scattered ten-bell saves throughout the game to frustrate the Crunch offense on the few occasions they were able to generate chances.
It started just 45 seconds into the game as the Crunch created a three-on-one off of a turnover. The puck came to Cory Conacher in his office at the right circle and his familiar one-timer was labeled for the back of the net before Kaskisuo’s left pad got in the way.
Another similarity to Friday night’s game was that the Crunch took way too many penalties. Hopped up on their confidence from killing seven power plays the night before, they got right back to work as they took four penalties in the first period on Saturday. Toronto didn’t take long to capitalize. Trevor Moore banged home a rebound off of a point shot from Jeremy Bracco. Nolan Valleau was the one Crunch defender down low and he had to choose between Adam Brooks, who was right in Pasquale’s face or Moore. Valleau took Brooks out of the play, but Moore was right there to collect the rebound and put it home.
From then on the penalty kill units were much, much more focused and did a great job of killing off the next six power plays throughout the game. Yes, for the second consecutive night the Crunch were shorthanded seven times, which seems to be a few too many. The Crunch did get one power play of their own in the first period, but it was lacking in chances and results. Toronto had an easy time clearing away the pucks that were dumped in and breaking up any entries Syracuse attempted.
A Crunch power play specialist was responsible for tying the game, though. Gabriel Dumont brought the puck down low and then sent a pass that was meant for Ben Thomas at the point, but Carter Verhaeghe intercepted it in the slot. That seemed to throw off the Toronto defense a bit and Alex Barre-Boulet was left all alone in front of Kaskisuo. The rookie took a pass from Verhaeghe and made it look like he was going to try and stuff a backhander inside the far post on the goaltender. Instead, as Kaskisuo was stretching to cover the post, Barre-Boulet deftly tucked the puck under the pad and into the net. Nice little bit of trickery for his 25th goal of the season.
Barre-Boulet didn’t wait long to get his 26th goal. Ninety seconds into the second period he deflected a Ben Thomas shot from the top of the right circle past Kaskisuo to give the Crunch the lead.
Thomas had a pretty good game (except for a holding penalty in overtime where he basically tackled Moore and set off a chain of events that led to the winning goal for Toronto). The defenseman was aggressive in the offensive zone, moving the puck with confidence and making the correct reads all night. He had a couple of nice breakout passes as well. Thomas and Jan Rutta were the two most noticeable (in a good way) blueliners for the Crunch all game long. When the defense is getting the puck out of the zone and getting shots through to the net, it really helps Syracuse's offense excel.
Unfortunately, Barre-Boulet’s second goal was it for the offense. This wasn’t for a lack of chances, though. The Crunch just couldn’t sneak another puck past Kaskisuo. The goalie stopped Carter Verhaeghe’s tap-in attempt on a Barre-Boulet cross-ice pass. He also stopped Ross Colton on a semi-breakaway.
As the second period wound down, the Crunch’s legs seemed to get tired. They took three consecutive icings. Toronto started to rack up some shots and started to control the puck a little more. The momentum seemed to be leaning to their side and with less than 30 seconds to go in the period, it paid off. Valleau pinched in to try and keep the puck in the Toronto zone, but they were able to clear it and the Marlies broke away with numbers in the their favor. Timashov slid a pass through to Pierre Engvall on the rush. Engvall fired a shot that Pasquale got most, but not all, of. The puck had enough juice on it to creep across the goal line, and the game was tied at two.
The third period featured chances by both teams. Toronto had a glorious chance to take the lead as they had a short (15 second) five-on-three power play after Taylor Raddysh was whistled for “interference” and Brady Brassart was nailed for a check to the head of Timothy Liljegren on what appeared to be a clean check along the boards. The Crunch survived the questionable calls despite a lot of zone time by the Marlies. Syracuse was able to block a lot of the shots directed at their goaltender.
All game long, the top lines for the two teams were also the lines generating the most chances. For the Crunch it was Dumont, Barre-Boule, and Verhaeghe that constantly kept the puck in the zone and had the best opportunities. For the Marlies the line of Adam Brooks, Trevor Moore and Jeremy Bracco was downright terrifying when they were on the ice.
Following the penalty kills, the Crunch almost cashed in on a scramble play in front of the net. Thomas fired a point from the shot that was knocked down in front of the net. Alex Volkov tried to kick the puck into the net, but it was stopped and rolled right to Andy Andreoff. The veteran flicked it toward the net with Kaskisuo out of position but the goaltender somehow got his left pad on the puck to keep it out of the net. A few minutes after that, Verhaeghe found Barre-Boulet cutting toward the net and connected on a backdoor pass, but the rookie’s bid of a hat trick went just wide of the net.
Off to overtime the two teams went. A minute in, Verhaeghe made a nice move to get to the slot but his shot was nicked by Kaskisuo’s glove and went wide. Then Thomas committed his penalty. On the power play, Adam Brooks had a good look at the net but his shot from the left circle was smothered by Pasquale’s glove.
The Crunch looked like they had averted immediate danger when Cameron Gaunce created a turnover at his own blueline. As he raced through the neutral zone shorthanded he was hooked by Rasmus Sandin and the two teams were back to three-on-three.
Unfortunately, on what looked like a pretty innocent play, Timashov managed to sneak a wrister through traffic (from Pasquale’s late reaction it may have hit off of Barre-Boulet or Rutta) and into the back of the net.
It was a bit of an unfortunate goal for Pasquale to give up as he had been so strong over the two games against the Marlies this weekend. Still, the Crunch walk away from the weekend with three points. As Coach Groulx said after the game, “At this time of year you want to win all those games, [but] you want to get points as well. We got a point today, we split. Gotta be happy with it.”
They didn’t concede any ground to the Marlies and they picked up a point on the Americans.
3 Kasimir Kaskisuo - 24 saves, 1 win, several highlight reel stops
2 Alex Barre-Boulet - 2 goals, 5 shots on net
1 Dmytro Timashov - 1 goal (game winner), 1 assist, 6 shots on net