(TORONTO) -- The Toronto Marlies have dragged themselves into Game 6 of their North Division Finals on the strength of a Ling and a player.
Bates Battaglia scored his fifth goal of the season with just 1:25 left in the first overtime period to lift the Marlies to a 4-3 win over the Syracuse Crunch.
The Marlies trail three games to two. Game 6 of the series will be played Saturday night in Syracuse. Should there be a Game 7, it will be at the Ricoh Coliseum, Monday at 7:30.
The goal happened a few seconds after a faceoff in the Crunch end. Ling, identifiable by a cheesy mustache best left with the 1970s game show host who originally sprouted it, beat his man to the corner and saw Battaglia in front of Crunch goalie Karl Goehring.
Now, if you listen to Battaglia, the rest was child’s play.
“I just had my stick on the ice,” Battaglia said. “Linger pretty much hit it and I just shoveled it into the back.”
Thing is, if scoring goals was easy, AHL rosters would be 100-men deep.
Once between Clay Wilson and the net, Battaglia angled himself to keep the Syracuse defenceman at bay before dunking the shot past Goehring.
Funny how that keeps happening. It was Battaglia who drifted a show toward the net to win the San Antonio series with a last-minute goal. He has five playoff goals in a dozen games.
“I think he’s a little bit too humble of a guy to realize how good a player he is,” said Captain Ben Ondrus. “He did the same thing against San Antonio. He played nearly 600 games in the NHL (580 with two seasons of 20 goals or more.). “You don’t stick around that long if you’re not a good player. It’s experience. You can’t call it luck when it keeps happening to the same guy, every year and every game.”
Ling, meanwhile, added his fourth goal of the playoffs while Kris Newbury contributed three assists. Scott Clemmensen stopped 26 shots as Toronto outshot Syracuse 37-29.
The Crunch opened the scoring two thirds of the way through the first on a goal by Tom Sestito. Then things went a little crazy. Brent Aubin less than a minute later when he stepped around Syracuse captain Zenon Konopka and lifted a shot over goalie Karl Goehring and under the crossbar.
The Marlies John Mitchell scored his seventh of the post-season before Gilbert Brule replied with the fourth goal in just 3:22.
The Marlies took the lead at 3-2 in the second when Ling banked a puck off the skate of Goehring. Replays showed the puck cleared the line but only by a ladybug’s eyelash.
The Crunch tied the game again on a power play marker by Wilson two minutes into the third.
Ling said he had a cosmetic reason to believe the Marlies could keep their rally from a three games to one deficit on track. “I don’t want to shave this mustache off yet. No one wants to stop playing.”
Usually a hostile destination for visiting players, the Marlies split their two games at War Memorial. They gave up two goals in the final two minutes to hand over Game 4.
“We’re going to go in there with some confidence,” said Battaglia, “play like we did tonight and just be a little tighter defensively.”