It took a lot longer than the hometown fans had hoped for, but the Ottawa 67’s finally put the Belleville Bulls away as Tyler Toffoli scored his second of the night just two minutes and two seconds into the first overtime, giving Ottawa a 3-2 win and a 1-0 series lead.
Thursday night’s game was eerily similar to the playoff opener last season, an 8-7 loss to the Sudbury Wolves which lead to an eventual sweep at the hands of the Wolves. On this night, much alike last year’s two vs. seven series, Ottawa outshot the underdog Bulls by a considerable margin, but could not put the game away in regulation.
The two teams traded goals in the first two periods before a scoreless third period and finally, Toffoli’s game winner. Steven Janes blocked a shot in the Ottawa end, sending the 67’s regular season leading scorer, Toffoli, in all alone on Malcolm Subban. A forehand deke beat the Belleville net minder, setting off an exuberant goal celebration.
Toffoli also notched the first goal of the game at the tail end of a first-period powerplay. Belleville quickly struck back, as Luke Judson tipped home a point shot from Jason Shaw to send the teams to the dressing rooms tied at one.
Ottawa also opened the scoring in the middle frame as Janes put home a rebound from the slot. In the following minutes, the 67’s put threw everything at the 2012 NHL Draft Eligible Subban. After he turned aside four shots from an in close scramble, Adam Payerl slid a wrist shot through a screen and between Petr Mrazek’s five-hole, a deflating goal which sent the teams off tied again after two periods of play.
The third period saw very little action, few scoring chances and just eleven shots on goal between the two cautious teams. It wasn’t until the two minutes of overtime that the play really opened up, a style which plays right into Ottawa’s hands.
Subban stood on his head, stopping 40 shots, one of them a second-period penalty shot from Taylor Fielding. Although he has never won a game vs. Ottawa (0-8-0), nor a playoff game (0-4-0) in his OHL career, the goaltender will have to continue to be Belleville’s best player. Mrazek turned aside 28 shots for the win.
These teams have very little time to dwell on tonight’s playoff opener as they go at it again tomorrow night for Game Two. Hopefully, tomorrow’s game will be played in front of a larger, more energetic group of fans than tonight.
Click here for the game sheet.
Random Thoughts from Behind the Lens:
- I believe Chris Byrne gave the team a couple of days off at the beginning of the week to rest up for the playoffs. Looks like it took the team at least the first period to get back into the swing of things. It could have been real ugly without Mrazek's great saves and some luck.
- It looks like some players have started playoff beards while others aren't even trying - everything from clean shaven faces to mature facial hair. No hair dye jobs that I could notice but the paint under the eye is back.
- Speaking of back, John McFarland is back to support the team for the playoffs. His arm is still in a sling but the re-hab is going well. It will be a while yet before he's moving any weights with his repaired shoulder. It was a bit of a mess apparently when they went in there.
- I may be biased but I think the barberpole jerseys are the best in the league. Man they look good. Glad they are back.
Tyler Toffoli's GWG!
Remy Giftopolous with one of the many hits by the 67's in the game
Petr Mrazek in his new gear (pads and gloves)
Click here to see more pictures.