Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
The Albany Devils have been a lot of things to the Toronto Marlies in the past year or so. On some nights, they’ve been formidable regular season opponents, counter-acting Toronto’s offensive instincts with astute shutdown play. On others, they’ve been much-hated playoff opponents, highlighted in a grueling and often violent second round series last year.
Now, they’re a ladder on the climb up the North Division standings; back-to-back wins would put the Marlies in second place. Tonight, they moved that out of reach for this weekend, collapsing from a 4-1 lead to fall 5-4 in overtime.
The Marlies roared out of the gate in the first period, thanks to an inspired rush by Eric Faille. The depth winger, who has drawn into just seven games this season, picked up his first of the year by recognizing a lack of space and opting for a wraparound to beat MacKenzie Blackwood less than three minutes in.
Toronto followed this up with a bit of a sacrificial play ten minutes later. Both Seth Griffith and Trevor Moore found themselves to be victims of heavy hits, but in the process of moving the puck and taking the impact, they were able to get the puck to Byron Froese, who ripped a shot five-hole to spread the gap. Travis Dermott followed him a few minutes later, also taking in a feed from Griffith and burying his second goal of the season.
The first period wasn’t all brilliant, though. With 41 seconds to go, Petr Straka put Albany on the scoresheet for the first time, beating Antoine Bibeau for his fourth of the year. The two teams spent some time being silent on the goal front from there but reawoke after a slashing penalty to Tony Cameranesi penalty late in the second. Justin Holl, interestingly, was the first to take advantage of it, sneaking through Albany’s powerplay unit on an end-to-end rush to tally his second of the season, only to have Jan Mandat put the advantage to its intended use in its dying moments.
The third period was a concerning one for the Marlies, as their opponents dominated them front to back, outshooting them 17-4 and, to make matters worse, had their lead pulled from beneath them. Ben Sexton closed the gap to 4-3 with three minutes to go, and with 36 seconds to go, he tied the game.
Toronto carried noticeably more period of free hockey, with Dmytro Timashov having a particularly inspired shift that nearly led to a winner. But it was the Devils who sealed off the comeback, as Johann Auvitu deposited the game-winner past Bibeau in the final minute of extra time.
With the loss, the Marlies remain at (a slightly lower variant of) 0.521, but allow Albany to keep trending upward. They’ll have a chance to get revenge tomorrow afternoon when they have their rematch against the Devils at 3:00 PM.