The Toronto Marlies finished off their season series with Manitoba in style by putting six past the Moose.
12 different players contributed at least a point as Toronto closed to within two points of the North Division lead with Tuesday night’s victory in Winnipeg.
The first period wasn’t short of action, with the teams splitting four goals in the opening 14 minutes.
The Marlies began brightly and were well on top until Brendan Leipsic took a reckless slashing penalty while on the back check. The Toronto penalty killers did their job perfectly before Leipsic almost scored out of the box — Eric Comrie made an excellent save in tight after good work from Brett Findlay and Kasperi Kapanen to create the chance.
Toronto took the lead with a little under eight minutes played courtesy of a wonderfully-taken goal by Kerby Rychel. Seth Griffith chipped the puck to Rychel as he broke the right side of the zone with speed. Rychel drove to the net on his backhand, rounded the last defenseman, faked forehand and finished one-handed on his backhand past Comrie’s pad.
With Steve Oleksy in the box shortly after the opening goal, Manitoba immediately stuck back in controversial fashion. After Brendan Lemieux deflected Brenden Kichton’s initial shot into the net with a high stick, Antoine Bibeau immediately questioned the decision. Unfortunately, that isn’t a reviewable call in the AHL, despite video replay clearly showing contact with the puck above the cross bar.
The disappointment didn’t last long as Toronto struck back on their first power play of the game. Just two seconds remained in the man advantage when Cal O’Reilly found Oleksy from behind the net and the defenseman scored his first goal for the Marlies with a neat finish into the top shelf.
A let-off from the Marlies led to the fourth goal in a seven-minute span; some slack back-checking allowed Kyle Connor to send a pinpoint pass through three Marlies players that found JC Lipon all alone at the backdoor for his eighth of the season.
The scoring relented until around the midway point of the game, but the opening ten minutes of the middle frame weren’t without scoring opportunities at either end.
A too-many-men penalty sent Manitoba on the power play, where they struck iron twice. The teams then exchanged odd man rushes, but neither could take advantage.
The turning point in the game came at the midway mark in the game when Oleksy dove to deny Patrice Cormier on a partial breakaway while also managing to avoid a penalty. Toronto went back the other way and drew ahead for the third time thanks to the unheralded Brett Findlay’s ninth of the season.
The Marlies power play — still very much a work in progress — couldn’t take advantage four minutes later, but Toronto found a fourth at even strength with three minutes left in the second period.
The Leipsic, Greening and Kapanen line put in their best shift of the game — especially Greening, who the Moose couldn’t contain during a 45-second spell in the offensive zone. His second shot of the shift resulted in a rebound that Leipsic reached back to sweep home.
Manitoba fought back with 47 seconds left on the clock after Toronto was caught running around in their own zone. Bibeau made a pair of fantastic saves on Kyle Connor and Cormier but could do nothing about Lipon’s second of the game due to a major screen and a redirect in front.
The Marlies delivered the fatal blow by restoring a two-goal advantage just 33 seconds later courtesy of their captain. Andrew Campbell drove into the right circle on his backhand before dishing off to Colin Greening in the slot. Greening’s effort was turned aside but Campbell followed up on the play and collected the rebound for a tap-in to Comrie’s left.
The Marlies spent some time in their own zone in the opening four minutes of the final frame, but Manitoba wasn’t able to create anything of note offensively. In fact, it took the Moose ten minutes to record a shot in the third period.
The Marlies were causing the home team all kinds of problems in search of another. Andreas Johnsson drew a four-minute power play, but Toronto failed to cash in despite ample possession and zone time. The extended penalty kill appeared to take its toll on the hosts physically before an unlikely source scored Toronto’s sixth.
Johnsson saw his attempt saved by Comrie, with the goaltender a little out of position to the side of his net. The puck fell kindly to Fredrik Gauthier, who banked the puck in off of Comrie’s left leg.
Bibeau was only called on to make five more saves as Toronto coasted to victory and completed a two-game sweep in Winnipeg.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto utterly dominated the season series with Manitoba, finishing with a 7-1-0-0 record.
– It was the fourth time in their last sixteen outings that Toronto has scored six in a single game.
– The Marlies have moved within a point of second-place Albany and sit two back of first-place Syracuse in the North Division.
– The power play went 1 for 5. Sheldon Keefe experimented with five forwards on one unit, with Seth Griffith playing the point at the top of the formation.
– Steve Oleksy, Kasperi Kapanen, Kerby Rychel, Colin Greening and Seth Griffith all recorded two-point games. Rychel has netted in three consecutive games.
– Brendan Leipsic’s goal was his first since January 14 in his second game back from injury.
– Brett Findlay netted his ninth goal in just 23 outings for Toronto. He’s riding a three-game point streak.
Post-Game: Sheldon Keefe
Game Sheet – Toronto 6 vs. Manitoba 3