ROSEMONT, Ill. - The Marlies finally ran out of miracles on Friday.
The Chicago Wolves abruptly shut down Toronto's extended post-season run as they used power play goals to rally from a 2-0 deficit to claim a 4-2 victory and a berth in the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship series. Chicago right-winger Darren Haydar snapped a 2-2 tie late in regulation for the game-winner at suburban Allstate Arena as the Wolves captured the AHL Western Conference championship series 4-1.
The Marlies, who had rallied to win two previous post-season series, hoped to upend Chicago and return to Toronto to try to tie the series and force a decisive Game 7.
"Chicago is an experienced hockey club and they haven't scored an even strength goal on us - except for an empty-netter - in three games," said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert. "They were getting a lot of opportunities with 5-on-3s and some questionable calls and they're going to make you pay and obviously they did tonight."
Haydar scored his eighth goal of the playoffs with 5:08 remaining in regulation and just four seconds into a Chicago power play. Wolves centre Kevin Doell added an empty-net goal with 41 seconds to play.
"It was a set play," said Haydar. "Johnny (Wolves coach John Anderson) drew it up on the bench and Kiwi (defenceman Joel Kwiatkowski) threw it at the net and I got a little bit on luck on that shot and tipped it in."
Three of Chicago's four goals came on power plays. The Wolves tied the game with two over a 16-second span in the second period. One came from Kwiatkowski at the 9:12 mark while Chicago had a 5-on-3 advantage. Centre Bryan Little then collected his sixth playoff goal while the Wolves maintained a one-player edge.
The Marlies claimed an early lead when they broke a scoreless tie on right winger Brent Aubin's slap shot past Wolves goalie Ondrej Pavelec halfway through the opening period.
Toronto made it 2-0 with less than two minutes left in the period on Andy Wozniewski's power-play goal after Chicago was whistled for too many men on the ice. The Marlies' defender was hovering to Pavelec's right when he took a perfect pass from centre John Mitchell and popped in an eight-foot shot.
But the Marlies failed to take advantage of other opportunities, notably a five-minute power play midway through the third period as Pavelec made a pair of point-blank saves.
"One saved the series maybe," said Anderson. "It was unbelievable. Your best penalty killer is your goalie."
Marlies goalie Justin Pogge turned back 19 of 22 shots in only his second playoff start. Pavelec made 23 saves.
While disappointed with his team's elimination, Gilbert expressed pride in their tenacity.
"We battled through a couple tough series and obviously this one was tough and I'm real proud of our guys," he said. "They never quit and they gave everything they had every day."