The Toronto Marlies will be heading home with a little extra pep in their step after recording a fourth straight victory on the road in St. John’s.
The special teams were the key difference in the second consecutive game against the IceCaps — Toronto tallied three times with the extra man while remaining resolute on the penalty kill.
The IceCaps only registered five shots in the first period despite three powerplay opportunities.
Toronto created the better chances in the opening six minutes, the best of which were two efforts from Andrew Nielsen on separate shifts.
Stefan Mattheau was incorrectly called for hooking but the officials made peace with the home fans by hauling off Travis Dermott and Seth Griffith soon after. That gave the IceCaps 80 seconds with two extra men, yet St. John’s failed to register a single shot on net.
Toronto owned the balance of possession after that, but there was little for Yann Danis to do in the IceCaps net until the last five minutes. Kerby Rychel attempted two wraparound attempts but he was denied on both occasions, as were his linemates on the resulting scrambles in the crease.
The pressure on the home team was alleviated by an interference call on Nielsen at the __ mark. The IceCaps produced one excellent scoring opportunity with the extra man, but Sparks denied Chris Terry’s wicked shot from the right circle and then scrambled the puck away from Michael McCarron in the crease.
Within a minute of the successful penalty kill, the Marlies opened the scoring. Justin Holl’s long outlet pass found Byron Froese on the left boards just outside the blue line. Pulling up just inside the o-zone, Froese found Moore at the bottom of the right circle with a weighted pass. The rookie then dished off to Griffith on his left and the newest Marlies forward finished off the tic-tac-toe play with aplomb, giving Danis no chance.
After earning a powerplay five minutes into the middle frame, the Marlies came close through Rychel and Johnsson. Griffith and Johnsson then combined, with the Johnsson’s shot tipped inches wide of the post by Griffith. With the second man-advantage unit on, Colin Smith and Brett Findlay combined to set up Dmytro Timashov for his fifth goal of the season.
Seven minutes into the period, Charles Hudon struck iron on a partial breakaway with just Sparks to beat and drew a penalty in the process. Sparks turned aside McCarron as he looked to force home another rebound in front — one of three excellent saves from the Marlies netminder as St. John’s orchestrated an excellent screen in front and fired at will toward his net.
The IceCaps were guilty of not taking their best opportunities and Tom Parisi missed the net after a fine play from Max Friberg.
Yet another terrific shift from Tony Cameranesi enabled Rich Clune to let fly with a slapshot before Eric Faille nearly put home the rebound.
Some sloppy play from the Marlies — a rare occurrence in this game — allowed the IceCaps to mount a little pressure as the period wound down. Sparks stood on his head to rob Farnham, Hudon and Joel Hanley, keeping the Marlies’ two-goal lead intact.
It proved a wake-up call for Toronto, who owned the puck afterward and applied relentless pressure on their hosts. Rychel and Smith came within inches of scoring a third, and in the end Farnham was forced to ice the puck.
A late Marlie powerplay almost led to a second goal from Timashov in the dying seconds of the middle frame, but his effort whistled just wide of Danis’ right post.
Sheldon Keefe would have been pleased with his team’s performance through 40 minutes and no doubt reiterated the need to keep pushing at the tail end of the back to back.
It took just 22 seconds for Toronto to score on the powerplay carried over from the second period. Johnsson expertly tipped home a shot from Griffith and Toronto deservedly led 3-0.
There was still no let-up from the Marlies as Griffith looked to double his goals tally, but Danis denied him on the initial and second efforts.
Six and a half minutes into the final frame, a high stick Farnham handed the Marlies a four-minute powerplay and they converted in the first half of the double minor. Smith hit the crossbar on a pass from Timashov before Smith found Danis and the iron in his way once more. Timashov was on hand to recover the rebound off the post and pot his second of the game.
With the game dead and buried, the only remaining question was whether could Toronto remain solid defensively and help Sparks to his third of the season.
The goaltender had to turn aside Terry as the St. John’s leading scorer drove the net, drawing a penalty in the process. The IceCaps powerplay proved ineffective again and the Marlies came closest to scoring while shorthanded.
A bad line change from the Marlies presented St. John’s with their best chance to break the goose egg, but Sparks turned aside Friberg in alone on goal with his 27th and last save of the game to secure the shutout.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto now leads the season series with St. John’s 4-3-0 with five games remaining.
– On January 14, a loss at home to Rochester saw Toronto slip four games below .500.
With Saturday’s win, the Marlies are back to even with a 20-20-2-1 record. Four straight victories equal the Marlies longest winning streak of the season.
– The Marlies were 3 for 5 on the powerplay and perfect on six penalty kills.
– Garret Sparks’ third shutout of the season improves his record to 9-5-0-3 with a .930 save percentage.
– This was Dmytro Timashov’s first multi-point and two-goal game of his AHL career. He broke a ten-game scoreless streak and is responding to increased responsibility of late.
– Seth Griffith kept his streak going with a consecutive multi-point haul for the Marlies. St. John’s will certainly glad to see the back of him and he’s already proved his worth to Toronto in just five outings.
– Kerby Rychel will head to the All-Star event without a point in his last three games, despite 15 shots on net in that span. He easily could have scored a handful of goals this weekend.
– A tenth goal of the season for Andreas Johnsson also gives him his 20th point. He led the way with six shots on Saturday.
– Brett Findlay and Colin Smith both recorded a pair of assists. Smith’s points broke a six-game drought.
– With his assist, Travis Dermott extends his points streak to three games.