Bibeau and Lindberg lead the way in shutout win

Shorn of four of their best players, the Toronto Marlies didn’t miss a beat with an impressive all-round performance Tuesday afternoon.

Facing a defensively-solid Albany Devils team that has won seven of their last eight games, Toronto struck twice in the opening five minutes to blow the game open.

The visiting Devils were outworked down low by Toronto’s fourth line before Frederik Gauthier turned and shot from the slot to score the game opener.

Just under two minutes later, Colin Smith, who opened his Marlies account with a flourish on Saturday, paid it forward to another newcomer, Tobias Lindberg. As the Marlies orchestrated an odd-man rush, Smith’s perfectly-weighted pass found Lindberg, who beat four trailing Albany players and scored backdoor.

The Devils almost responded at the six-minute mark, but Antoine Bibeau made a fine left pad save to deny Brian O’Neill.

Toronto’s penalty kill was excellent during this encounter, denying Albany on two first period powerplays and carving out the better scoring opportunities while shorthanded.

A man advantage for the Marlies proved fruitless, but Toronto were full value for their two-goal lead heading into the intermission.

The second period provided the turning point of the game as Antoine Bibeau performed miracles between the pipes for his team.

The Devils began brightly and drew themselves another powerplay, which was again blanked by an excellent kill, with strong efforts from Connor Brown and Sam Carrick in particular.

Back at even strength, Matt Frattin sent Josh Leivo on a breakaway with a long outlet pass, but Leivo’s effort found the bar to the relief of Devils goalie Yann Danis.

Brett Findlay then showed some more of his now-familiar skill in tight, but Danis thrust out a left pad to deny the Toronto forward from a highlight-reel goal.

A turnover from Justin Holl allowed Jim O’Brien to race away alone on Bibeau with seven minutes on the clock. Holl looked on in relief as Bibeau got a piece of the shot with his glove to steer the puck wide.

The Devils were indebted to Danis once more a minute later. A broken play fell kindly to Leivo, who launched a one-timer that drew a magnificent save from the veteran netminder.

The 45 seconds of play that followed featured a remarkable sequence. With Toronto scrambling in front of their own net, Albany had at least seven golden chances from the slot area that Bibeau somehow turned aside with fantastic athleticism. Somewhere in between there was an important block from Andrew Campbell, with the Marlies surviving the barrage.

That proved the turning point of the game as a frustrated Albany squad then fell behind 3-0. Carrick created some room for himself before sending Lindberg away down the left side. With the confidence gained from his first goal, Lindberg released a wicked, unstoppable shot that beat Danis far post.

Another powerplay for Albany, with 52 seconds remaining in the second period, only added to their frustration. A shot from the right looked like it may have beat Bibeau, but Campbell dived full length to block the shot with some part of his head.

Toronto never looked in any danger of allowing Albany back into the game during the final 20 minutes, rubbing salt into the wound with a shorthanded goal. Frattin chipped the puck down the left and Mark Arcobello was on it like a flash, going bar down to make it 4-0.

With ten minutes remaining, the game was only about two things at this stage: Could Lindberg get his hat trick, and would Bibeau register his first shutout of the season?

The answer to the first is no, but he came close. One effort hit the post on the powerplay with the goal judge thinking the puck crossed the line. A rebound inside the last two minutes almost fell for him as well, but it wasn’t to be.

Antoine Bibeau would successfully hold on for the shutout, in large part thanks to Toronto’s structure late in the game that allowed just four shots against.

This was a much-improved effort after the undisciplined game against Rochester on Saturday. This is the way forward for a Marlies team with a less offensively-gifted roster for the remainder of the regular season.

Post Game Notes

– The shorthanded goal was a league-leading 12th by the Marlies and the first allowed by Albany this season.

Frederik Gauthier’s goal was his fifth of the season. He had a very noticeable game offensively in the absence of Nikita Soshnikov, stepping up to the plate with the extra responsibility.

– Toronto’s penalty kill blanked Albany on six occasions, barely giving them a sniff. Assignments were kept in check and the Devils’ leading goal scorer Mike Sislo was kept very quiet.

Antoine Bibeau made 24 saves for his first shutout for the season. That’s the fifth in his career and an encouraging sign as he looks to carry the load the rest of the way.

– A double strike for Tobias Lindberg for his first and second as a Marlie. Lindberg continues to improve every game, now up to speed and flourishing alongside Smith and Carrick.

Game Highlights

Sheldon Keefe Post Game

Marlies Player Stats — Toronto 4 vs. Albany 0

Campbell, AndrewD01220
Brennan, T.J.D00110
Percy, StuartD00106
Leivo, JoshRW00030
Carrick, SamC01132
Clune, RichardLW01110
Leipsic, BrendanLW00000
Lindberg, TobiasRW20222
Gauthier, FrederikC10130
Arcobello, MarkC10120
Brown, ConnorRW01100
Findlay, BrettLW00010
Smith, ColinC01200
Kurtz, JohnLW01110
Frattin, MattRW01100
Holl, JustinD01120
Loov, ViktorD00112
Valiev, RinatD00210