Marlies blank Comets, earn spot in division finals

Carl Grundstrom scored twice, Andreas Johnsson recorded three points in his return and Garret Sparks made 37 saves as the Toronto Marlies advanced to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs with a 4-0 win over Utica Comets in the winner-take-all Game 5 at Ricoh Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.

For the second year in a row, the Marlies will meet the Syracuse Crunch in the North Division Finals. That series will begin Thursday in Toronto.

The Marlies held onto a one-goal lead until Grundstrom scored again at 12:33 of the second period, going to the net and redirecting a centering pass from Johnsson past Demko to make it 2-0.Toronto got the first power play of Game 5 early in the opening period and Pierre Engvall found Grundstrom camped out down low to the left of Thatcher Demko‘s cage. Grundstrom hammered home his second goal of the series at 3:34.

Johnsson, in his first game with the Marlies since Mar. 12 after spending six weeks with the parent Maple Leafs, gave the Marlies a 3-0 lead just 56 seconds into the third, ripping a shot home from the right-wing circle.

Dmytro Timashov finished the scoring with an empty-net goal — his third goal and fifth point of the series — with 2:11 remaining.

Sparks (3-2) earned the Game 5 shutout after allowing eight goals on 27 shots combined in the Game 3 and 4 losses. Sparks, the AHL’s Baz Bastien Award winner for 2017-18, finished with a .958 save percentage at home in the series. He became the 13th goaltender in AHL history to record a shutout in a winner-take-all playoff game.

Demko (2-3) made 34 saves in the loss.

North Division Semifinals – Series “C” (best-of-5)
N1-Toronto Marlies vs. N4-Utica Comets
Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 21 – TORONTO 3, Utica 2 (OT) | Recap
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 22 – TORONTO 5, Utica 2 | Recap
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 25 – UTICA 5, Toronto 2 | Recap
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 27 – UTICA 5, Toronto 2 | Recap
Game 5 – Sun., Apr. 29 – TORONTO 4, Utica 0