TORONTO – Toronto Marlies left winger Bates Battaglia scored late in the first overtime period to beat the visiting Syracuse Crunch 4-3 in second-round American Hockey League playoff action on Friday night.
Battaglia, standing in front of the Crunch crease, got a stick on David Ling’s centring pass and deflected the puck past Syracuse netminder Karl Goehring at 18:35 of the first extra frame.
“Linger made a great pass and I was just in the right place,” Battaglia said. “He put the puck right on my stick. I was trying to get to the net and Ling made a great play and I just shovelled it in.”
The win keeps the Marlies alive in the Calder Cup playoffs as they pulled within two games in the North Division final. Game 6 is Saturday at Syracuse.
“(Game 6) is going to be even tougher,” said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert. “We’ve got to go there and play probably our best game of the playoffs and bring it back home here on Monday (for Game 7).”
Forwards Brent Aubin, John Mitchell and Ling also scored for the Marlies in front of 2,733 fans at Ricoh Coliseum. Kris Newbury picked up three assists, including a helper on the winning goal.
Tom Sestito and Gilbert Brule and defenceman Clay Wilson replied for the Crunch.
Toronto netminder Scott Clemmensen made 29 saves for the victory. At the other end, Goehring blocked 34 shots before Battaglia’s redirection extended the series.
“It’s good, basic hockey,” Gilbert said. “You want to score goals, you’ve got to go to the dirty areas to do it. The goalies are so good nowadays, you’re not going to score from the perimeter.”
The game was tied 2-2 after the first period with all four goals coming in a 3:22 span and Toronto led 3-2 through 40 minutes.
The first period featured several big bodychecks as both teams tried to set a physical tone, but there were few scoring chances until late in the opening frame.
The Crunch opened the scoring when Sestito, standing in front of Clemmensen at the mouth of the crease, deflected Marc Methot’s wrist shot from the point for a power-play marker at 14:34.
Less than a minute later, Aubin tied it up for Toronto when he beat Zenon Konopka in the faceoff circle, then quickly stepped around the Syracuse centre and wristed a high shot over Goehring’s left shoulder at 15:27.
Mitchell, Toronto’s leading goal-scorer in the playoffs as well as in the regular season, made it 2-1 at 17:32. With a delayed penalty on Syracuse, Newbury waited for Mitchell to find open ice in the slot and then fed the puck to the Marlies centre, who whipped a wrist shot past Goehring.
Mitchell has seven goals in 12 playoff games after firing 20 in 79 regular season contests.
The cheers had barely died down when Marlies defenceman Andy Wozniewski was stripped of the puck deep in the defensive zone by Syracuse’s Alexandre Picard, who found Brule wide open in the slot. The Crunch centre finished off the play by beating Clemmensen with a wrist shot at 17:56 to tie the game at 2-2.
There was controversy at 10:39 of the second period when Ling’s centring attempt from behind the net deflected off Goehring and bounced along the goal-line. The Crunch goalie swept the puck away with his stick and the referee initially didn’t rule that it had crossed the goal-line. The red light also didn’t flash, but the on-ice officials huddled with the goal judge and then awarded the goal to Ling.
There is no video replay to decide goals in the AHL, but there was no doubt in Gilbert’s mind.
“Yeah, it was in,” said the Marlies coach. “It was on its edge, it wasn’t laying flat and you can see white (ice) between the bottom of the puck and the goal-line, so obviously the puck was over the line.
“It would’ve been nice to have it a little further in over the goal-line so there’s not a controversy, but we’ll take it. It was a smart play by David.”
Wilson tied it up at 3-3 early in the third period, with Syracuse’s second power-play goal, when Nate DiCasmirro’s rebound bounced to Wilson in the slot and the Crunch defenceman fired a low shot past Clemmensen at 2:17.
It was a back-and-forth affair for the remainder of the third period, but neither team could close out the game in regulation time. The pace continued in the overtime period as the clubs traded chances until Battaglia’s game-winner with 85 seconds remaining in the extra frame.
Syracuse was 2-for-3 on the power play, while Toronto went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.