TORONTO - In a game rife with post-season implications, the Syracuse Crunch and Toronto Marlies needed a shootout to decide their fates in a 4-3 Crunch victory Sunday.
Right-winger Maksim Mayorov scored the shootout winner for Syracuse, which now moves into a tie with the Marlies for the final playoff berth in the AHL's North Division.
The majority of the action came in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Crunch got off to a quick start as left-winger Nikita Filatov potted a juicy rebound on an early power-play rush, but the Marlies were up to the challenge. Less than a minute later, Toronto centre Tim Stapleton snuck in behind the defence and sent a wrister stick-side on Syracuse netminder Kevin Lalande.
Toronto was also deadly on the man advantage, with right-winger Jeremy Williams putting a slapshot from the half-boards past Lalande shortly after the Stapleton goal to seize a momentary lead.
But Filatov continued his golden streak on a two-man Crunch advantage, taking a cross-crease pass from centre Derek MacKenzie for an easy second goal of the match.
Marlies captain Ben Ondrus broke the tie in the second on a penalty shot, calmly skating in and firing a wrister past Lalande.
But penalties caught up to Toronto again later in the middle frame, as Crunch right-winger Michael Blunden was sent in alone by defenceman Grant Clitsome on a blown defensive assignment. Marlies goalie Adam Munro made the initial save, but Blunden popped the puck in on the rebound for Syracuse's third power-play goal of the game.
The game had all the makings of an intense playoff battle and wasn't without ugly moments. Midway through the first period, MacKenzie hit Marlies forward Ryan Hollweg from behind, setting off a scrum in the Syracuse corner. In the second frame, Toronto's Kyle Rogers and Kevin Harvey of the Crunch squared off in a prolonged bout.
Munro came up big on the Crunch's first power play of the third, stoning a wide-open MacKenzie in close at the side of the net to keep the game knotted at 3-3. The Marlies goalie also made several key saves in overtime, but couldn't stop the Crunch's Russian duo of Filatov and Mayorov in the shootout. Williams was the only Marlies shooter to score in the shootout.
Notes: Marlies left-winger Jiri Tlusty, the team's second-leading scorer, missed the game due to injury. . . . Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was at the game. . . . Stapleton now has six points in his past four games. . . . Syracuse was playing its eighth game in ten days.