The Toronto Marlies made the mistake of complacency in their quest for a ninth straight playoff victory, squandering a commanding lead and surrendering four third period goals in a 5-3 loss to the Charlotte Checkers in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final at Bojangles Coliseum on Saturday.
Jeremy Bracco, Colin Greening, and Adam Brooks scored for Toronto to put them up 3-0 early in the second period, but Charlotte rallied after coach Mike Vellucci pulled starter Alex Nedeljkovic in favor of veteran Dustin Tokarski.
The Marlies appeared content to protecting the lead in front of goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo, but the Checkers got some much needed momentum on a goal late in the middle frame from Tomas Jurco, tied the game on goals from Nicolas Roy and Jesper Sellgren 69 seconds apart early in the third and before Andrew Poturalski’s shot deflected off of Andreas Borgman past Kaskisuo for the game winner with 1:41 left in regulation.
“I thought we were just careless and that started in the first period. Through the first and the second period, we gave up way too much defensively. We had to rely on our goaltender way too much just by being careless and soft with the puck.” Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “We had a lead for ourselves and it made us feel comfortable and that’s the worst, absolute worst thing that could have happened for us in a game like today which we just weren’t sharp, we were careless and soft with the puck as I said. We get what we deserve in the end.”
Saturday’s loss is the first adversity that the Marlies have dealt with this postseason, but if they can bounce back and win their three games at Coca-Cola Coliseum on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Toronto will be headed to the Calder Cup Final for the second straight season.
“This is what playoffs are about. It’s supposed to be difficult especially when you’re playing the top team in the league. It’s supposed to be difficult so things were going way too easy and it turned. The way we were playing allowed that to happen.” Keefe said. “We have to play a lot better. All that said, we were up 3-0, we missed three breakaways in the hockey game, we’ve had the chance to really break the game open and all the other stuff probably doesn’t matter but like I said, I think the luck turned on us here today. We missed our chances, pucks bouncing all over the place and ends up in our net and the series is tied and we get to go play at home.”
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