Marlies find footing, rally to knock off Comets in opener

Photo: Thomas Skrlj

Joseph Blandisi scored 18:35 into overtime, giving Toronto a 6-5 victory over Utica in a back-and-forth Game 1 of the teams’ North Division semifinal at Coca-Cola Coliseum on Thursday night.

The best-of-five series continues with Game 2 on Saturday afternoon in Toronto.

In action for the first time since closing the regular season on Apr. 16, the Marlies fell behind 3-0 before tying the score with three goals in a span of 8:16 during the second period.

The Comets regained the lead at 4-3 with less than nine minutes remaining in regulation, but the Marlies answered again as Logan Shaw netted his second goal of the night 35 seconds later, and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev gave Toronto its first lead 58 seconds after that.

With a sixth attacker on, Utica got the equalizer with 51.6 seconds left as Alexander Holtz scored his first goal of the postseason. It was the second game in a row in which the Comets forced OT with a goal in the final minute.

Both teams had opportunities to win the game in the overtime period, which saw Toronto outshoot Utica by a 13-11 count.

Pontus Holmberg and Topi Niemelä also scored for the Marlies, and Shaw forced a turnover in the neutral zone to set up Blandisi for the game-winning goal, capping a three-point night for both skaters.

Reilly Walsh scored twice for Utica, while Graeme Clarke tallied a goal and two assists.

With Joseph Woll and Erik Källgren on recall to the parent Maple Leafs, Keith Petruzzelli made his Calder Cup Playoff debut and stopped 40 of 45 shots for the Marlies, who won their eighth consecutive Game 1 going back to their championship run in 2018.

Nico Daws (2-1) turned aside 43 shots for the Comets in the loss.

North Division Semifinals (best-of-5)
N1-Toronto Marlies vs. N4-Utica Comets
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 27 – TORONTO 6, Utica 5 (OT)
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 29 – Utica at Toronto, 4:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 3 – Toronto at Utica, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 5 – Toronto at Utica, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 7 – Utica at Toronto, 4:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern