The Rochester Americans fell to the Toronto Marlies in a back-and-forth affair by a score of 5-4 in overtime at The Blue Cross Arena on Friday night. Despite the loss, the Amerks managed to pick up a point for the 12th time in the last 15 games, moving to 9-3-2-1 in that span.
Derek Whitmore (1+2) produced a three-point performance for Rochester while Paul Szczechura scored two goals. Evan Rankin also lit the lamp in the contest, while Brian Flynn, who was making his professional debut, registered his first pro point with an assist. Netminder David Leggio finished with 27 saves while making his 15th straight start.
“We are in a tough stretch here, but if you are going to be a playoff team, you aren’t going to win every game in the playoffs so you have to be able to bounce back with a better effort,” said Head Coach Ron Rolston. “I thought we did some things really well tonight, but we just have to do it for 60 minutes.”
Nazem Kadri (2+0), Mike Zigomanis (1+1), Greg Scott (1+1) and Juraj Mikus (0+2) each tallied two points for Toronto in the winning effort, with Will Acton also chipping in a goal. Between the pipes, Ben Scrivens turned away 33 of 37 shots faced to earn the win.
Szczechura scored for the seventh time in the past 11 outings to give the Amerks a 1-0 lead just 52 seconds into the contest. After Colin Stuart drove the net from the right half-wall, his shot attempt bounced right to Szczechura, who wasted no time in depositing the rebound into the open side.
Toronto tied the game at one apiece midway through the opening period when Acton beat Leggio from the left circle with a low wrister to the far side.
Rochester regained its one-goal advantage 5:32 into the middle frame as Rankin pounced on the loose rebound of a Brayden McNabb point shot and shoveled it around a sprawled Scrivens for his 11th goal of the season.
The Marlies responded to knot the game at 2-2 with a power-play goal at the 8:41 mark of the second. Off the rush, Kadri let a quick wrist shot go from the high slot that found its way through Leggio, who appeared to be screened on the play.
Skating with the man-advantage, the Amerks capitalized on a mishap by Scrivens to once again pull ahead. An errant clearing attempt by the Toronto goaltender found its way right to Whitmore, who immediately sent the puck into the vacant net.
Toronto potted its second power-play goal of the night 3:13 into the final period to even the score at three. A slap-pass from Mikus connected with Scott at the back-side post for the goal.
The Marlies grabbed their first lead of the night with 4:01 remaining in regulation. Kadri executed a quick toe-drag move to the middle of the slot and proceeded to bury a wrister behind Leggio.
Szczechura, however, responded with his second goal of the game with just over a minute to go, tying the score 4-4 with Leggio pulled for an extra attacker. A slick behind-the-back feed from Whitmore in the right corner found its way to Szczechura, who one-timed it to the top shelf.
Toronto’s game-winning goal came with only six seconds left on the clock. After a spectacular kick save by Leggio on Ryan Hamilton, Zigomanis was there to clean up the rebound and secure the victory.
The same two teams meet again for the second time in as many nights on Saturday as the Amerks and Marlies bring their season series to a close at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:35 p.m. North Division showdown will be the 10th and final meeting of the season between the two teams and will be carried live on 107.3 FM and1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.