The Rochester Americans (2-0) built a two-goal lead going into the third period of Sunday’s Game 2 of the North Division Semifinals at The Blue Cross Arena only to see the defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies (2-0) score twice in less than two minutes before stealing a 3-2 overtime win 2:20 into the extra frame.
The Amerks now trail the best-of-five series 2-0 as it shifts to Coca-Cola Coliseum for Game 3 Wednesday night in Toronto at 7:00 p.m.
Forward Wayne Simpson notched an assist on each of C.J. Smith and Kevin Porter’s second-period goals while netminder Scott Wedgewood made 20 saves but suffered the overtime loss in the Amerks crease.
Much like in the regular season, Jeremy Bracco led the Marlies as he scored twice, including the game-winning goal, to go with an assist for Toronto, which boasts a 17-5 record dating back to the start of last year’s postseason. Chris Mueller (1+1) completed the scoring with his third goal of the series while also chipping in a helper. Netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo drew the nod for Marlies and stopped a playoff career-high 40 shots to push the Amerks on the brink of elimination.
With the game tied at two after 60 minutes of play, the Amerks and Marlies went to a sudden-death overtime period.
After Rochester rimmed the puck around the boards less than two minutes into the extra frame, Toronto exited its own zone on a 2-on-1 odd-man rush. Bracco received the outlet pass and patiently waited to avoided a sliding Amerk defender and backhanded the puck into an empty net as Wedgewood got tangled up with another teammate atop his crease.
“It’s disappointing,” Simpson said. “To lose in overtime, and the special teams battle, and that sticks out. I think when we look back at the game, their power-play goal was the turning point in the game. We had chances on our power-play but we did not capitalize on it.”
“We had a bit of a lapse in the third and they scored in overtime,” Smith said. “At this time of the year, you have to play a full 60-minute game. You cannot have any letdowns or it will cost you in the end.”
The game began scoreless until the 4:05 mark of the second period as Smith gave Rochester its first lead of the series as he picked the top right corner of Kaskisuo’s net for his first-career postseason goal. Simpson handed Smith a pass near the center-ice logo before Smith, who scored 28 during the regular season, banked a pass off the wall to himself before slipping around a Marlies defender.
Later in the middle stanza, Toronto attempted to exit its own zone but rookie defenseman Kurt Gosselin knocked down a pass before Simpson sent a pass to Porter to the left of the goaltender. Rochester’s team captain stepped out from the goal-mouth and stuffed the puck across the goal-line with 1:24 left in the frame to give the Amerks a 2-0 lead going into the third period.
Despite being outshot 30-12 after the first 40 minutes of play, the Marlies drew a power-play 51 seconds into the third period and capitalized on the extra skater just eight seconds later on the ensuing man-advantage. Bracco then tied the game just 55 seconds later.
“We talked about it with our team, we cannot take penalties as they thrive on the power-play,” said Amerks head coach Chris Taylor. “Right off the bat in the third we take a penalty and they capitalized on it then we were on our heels a little bit during the next goal.”
Each team had chances over the final 18 minutes of regulation, but the game required overtime as it remained tied at 2-2. The Marlies, however, scored just 2:20 into the extra period on Bracco’s second of the night to earn the 3-2 win and take a 2-0 series lead.
“We have to play a perfect 60-minute game,” Taylor explained on if the Amerks can force a Game 4. “We need to execute and want to score goals so bad that after we shoot the puck we want to put our bodies into the net after the puck goes in.”
“It’s one game at a time,” explained Porter. “We have to win three straight but we will not be able to do that without winning the first one. We need to win one before we can worry about what is next.”