The Toronto Marlies won their third straight on the road against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Sunday.
The Marlies have now won four of their last five and sit atop the North Division with a 9-3-0 record.
It wasn’t a great start for the Marlies, as Toronto gifted Lehigh the opening goal on a turnover by Calle Rosen behind his own net. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was the recipient of the misplayed clearance and he found Danick Martel alone in front. The AHL’s leading goal scorer roofed the puck past Calvin Pickard on the Phantoms’ first shot of the game.
Andrew Nielsen repeated Rosen’s mistake soon after, but the Marlies got away with it and responded by coming close through Trevor Moore and Andreas Johnsson.
After the combination of Johnsson and Ben Smith drew the first penalty of the game, Toronto took advantage. A long-range shot bounced off the boards and Chris Muller applied the final touch amid a scramble in front to nudge the puck over the goal line.
Toronto’s strong forecheck was causing problems for the Phantoms defense, with Lehigh struggling to contain Nikita Soshnikov in particular. The Russian forward’s effort resulted in one great chance for Frederik Gauthier, who was denied by Dustin Tokarski.
A second power play for Toronto saw Mueller and Rosen denied and tempers begin to flare. After Dmytro Timashov punched Cole Bardreau and knocked off his helmet, the Phantoms forward pummelled the diminutive Toronto forward to the ice.
The end result was a two-man advantage for Marlies, but they failed to take advantage after Sheldon Keefe called a timeout.
With the score tied at 1-1 through 20 minutes, the pace ramped up during the second period, with both goaltenders facing a good deal of action.
Martin Marincin forced a glove save 20 seconds in, T.J Brennan blocked what appeared to be a certain goal for Kerby Rychel, and Soshnikov was denied after an excellent rush down the right from Justin Holl.
Lehigh went on the power play for the first time with 2:47 on the clock and nearly regained the lead. The puck was in the net, but Pickard was bundled over in the process as Mark Friedman was hooked from behind.
That led to a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:33, but Toronto’s PKers firm. Numerous blocked shots, including on a pair of bombs from Brennan, set the tone, and Pickard was only called on once for a glove save.
Smith and Bracco almost put Toronto ahead at the resumption of even strength play before Trevor Moore scored the third goal of the game just after the midway mark.
Mueller retrieved the puck behind the net and looked for Timashov out front, but the Swedish winger was crowded out. Moore was able to find the puck in traffic and wasted no time releasing a snapshot past an unsighted Tokarski.
Pickard, heating up as the game progressed, made huge saves to deny Maxim Lamarche in tight and then Colin MacDonald on a breakaway following a cheap turnover by the Marlies.
MacDonald missed the target on another break, but in-between times, Toronto extended their advantage. A point shot from Rosen hit Lamarche out front with Marchment also causing trouble in the crease. The puck fell kindly for Ben Smith, who potted his sixth of the season to put Toronto up 3-1 with 20 minutes remaining.
Toronto began the final frame on the penalty kill, but much to Lehigh crowd’s frustration, they easily dealt with the two minutes down a man.
In fact, the Phantoms didn’t register a shot until seven minutes into the final frame. A mistake from Marincin, who misjudged a high pass, allowed Martel in on goal again, but Pickard stood tall.
The goaltender was now in the zone as he squeezed his pads together to rob Chris Connor after a cross-ice feed released the Phantoms forward.
Barring those close calls, the Marlies were thoroughly on top and scored a fourth with 6:29 remaining. After a shot from the point by Timashov bounced off of the backboards, Soshnikov picked up the loose puck and somehow found the roof of the net from an acute angle.
The finishing touch was applied by Moore after a turnover from a tired-looking Lehigh team playing their third game in as many days. From the left circle, he finished five-hole through Tokarski to clinch a thoroughly-deserved 5-1 victory.
Post Game Notes
– Sunday’s lines:
– A 35-save performance from Calvin Pickard, who responded incredibly well after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced. His 19 saves in the middle frame were crucial to the win. Just like that, Pickard is now 2-2 on the season with a save percentage of .915.
– Toronto has not allowed a power play goal against in five consecutive games, killing 22 straight penalties.
– A pair of goals for Trevor Moore takes his seasonal tally to three.
– With a goal and an assist, Chris Mueller recorded his second multi-point game of the year. After going scoreless in eight games to begin the season, Mueller has two goals in his last four games.
– Another impressive showing from Mason Marchment, who extended his points streak to four games (2-6-8) with a pair of assists. He’s now third in rookie scoring, just a point behind Daniel Sprong and Mike Vecchione.
– Dmytro Timashov certainly got under the skin of his opponents during this game but didn’t shy away afterwards. A pair of assists takes his season point tally to eight in 12 games.
– Nikita Soshnikov was uncontainable at times and deservedly scored his first goal since October 22. With little fanfare, he has nine points in 11 outings.
– Calle Rosen put up his second point in as many games and put six shots on goal on Sunday. He’s finding ways to get the puck through traffic from the point. Bar the early mistake, it was another solid defensive effort from the Swede.
– Timothy Liljegren was banged up a little during the victory in Hershey and sat this one out. An awkward hit into the boards did the damage, but it isn’t said to be serious at this juncture. The team had Monday off and will practice on Tuesday, at which point a decision will be made for Wednesday’s encounter with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.