The Toronto Marlies played game three of their Calder Cup finals series tonight. They’re up against a really tough opponent in the Norfolk Admirals – if you’re not familiar with them, this is a team that finished their regular season with 28 straight wins – and they came into tonight down 2-0 in the series.
It was a very, very close game; scoreless through three periods and needed overtime to decide it. Toronto came out strong and played much better than they had in the series so far. But as the game wore on, you could see the balance shift ever so slowly. After being outshot most of the game, Norfolk evened up the count in the third period and then pulled ahead, an advantage they’d never give up. Toronto couldn’t get a sustained rush past the neutral zone. They looked like they were playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. As early as the second period, I said to my fiancée that it felt like the game would come down to one goal, and it wouldn’t be the Marlies scoring it.
In the end, that’s exactly what happened, and it came on a play you could try 100 times in practice without being able to duplicate it. A Norfolk player dumped the puck into the near corner, and Marlies’ goalie Ben Scrivens moved behind the net to corral the rebound for one of his defencemen. But the puck hit a seam on the boards and took a ridiculous bounce on a line directly into the far side of the open net. All anyone could do was stand in disbelief and watch the game end.
Except, there’s this – the play was offside. There was at least one Admirals player in Toronto’s end when the puck was shot in. The linesman raised his arm for the delayed offside call and, as the play developed, there was no way that Norfolk had cleared the zone before the puck crossed the goal line. No way. I’d have bet my first-born child on it – an empty wager in my case, but still…
All the way home, I was seething about the game ending that way – Toronto losing, in overtime, on a goal that shouldn’t have counted. It wouldn’t have been the first time this season that lousy officiating had contributed to a Marlies loss. The AHL has no video replay, awful refs, and more often than not only one referee assigned to each game.
Once I got home, and calmed down, I stopped in at the bar across the street to grab a beer and – this is where you insert the gasp – do a little karaoke. After I got settled, I saw that the bar had LeafsTV on, and they happened to be showing a recap of the game from which I just got home, including the ending.
It wasn’t offside?
They cleared the zone in time.
It wasn’t offside.
Down 3-0, the Marlies now have enormous odds to overcome in this series if they want to win the championship. Game three is over. They’ll never get the chance to play it again. Ben Scrivens, so good all throughout the playoffs, will never get a second chance to make that critical save.
I saw the replay. I got a second chance.
Not to try to get all deep here, or to draw a parallel to other, unrelated events in my life, but here’s the thing – you don’t always get a second chance. When you do, take it.
Update – apparently the AHL needs a second chance too. I guess it doesn’t matter that the player cleared the zone – the goal still shouldn’t have counted (h/t to James Mirtle at The Globe and Mail).