It was very evident from the post-game comments after this Toronto Marlies victory that head coach Sheldon Keefe told some home truths after the 8-1 loss to Syracuse earlier in the week.
To a man, the Marlies responded with a dominant road display that was full of energy, determination and the structure that had been totally absent in their game of late.
The Marlies led the shot count 8-1 inside the opening six minutes but had nothing to show for it after Jeremy Bracco and Dmytro Timashov both forced Eric Comrie into good saves early.
The Marlies then needed a successful penalty kill to avoid giving up the first goal of the game again. They remained resolute in front of Eamon McAdam, who made the two saves asked of him.
The Marlies responded by scoring on their first power play of the game. Rasmus Sandin — who is showing a real knack for getting his shots through from the point — let go a one-time blast that appeared to hit a Manitoba stick in front before sneaking past Comrie.
It was the type of break the Marlies haven’t benefited from of late, and they grew in confidence from that moment on.
In the space of 30 seconds, Sandin made an excellent defensive play and then drew a penalty. That was followed by another penalty by Manitoba, presenting Toronto with a 5-on-3 power play for 1:44.
The Moose were over-aggressive on the penalty kill, allowing Chris Mueller to slide the puck down the right side to Bracco, who set up Trevor Moore to score his 13th of the season from the heart of the slot.
The Marlies almost took a 3-0 lead into the intermission, but Comrie denied Adam Brooks after the second year centerman extricated the puck from a scrum down low.
Brooks, a Winnipeg native, wasn’t going to be denied a goal in front of friends and family, though, as he put the Marlies three ahead just 48 seconds into the middle frame.
The Marlies had Manitoba running in circles as they began the second period with jump in their step. Moments after Moore was denied, Brooks tipped home from the top of the blue paint on an excellent feed from Calle Rosen.
With the Moose now attempting to up the physicality as a way of climbing back into the game, Sam Jardine took umbrage with a dubious hit on Timashov, leading to the defenseman dropping the gloves and acquitting himself quite well in a tussle with Charles-David Beaudoin.
The Moose halved the Marlies lead on a power play after a high-sticking call on Pierre Engvall three minutes into the period. Michael Spacek was afforded too much time between the circles and gave McAdam no chance with his finish.
The Marlies killed a second straight penalty with ease, but the Moose were now rolling offensively and McAdam was called on to make three saves of note, including a pokecheck on a breakaway chance for Manitoba.
The Marlies then found the crucial next goal. A pass from Rosen down the left wing created a 2-on-1 rush that was perfectly executed by Mason Marchment and scorer Josh Jooris to put Toronto ahead 4-1.
Curious decisions from the officials led to Manitoba being awarded a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play despite Frank Corrado clearly being high-sticked in the middle of it all. The inevitable goal against came from a one-time blast off the stick of the recently-reassigned Sami Niku to cut the Toronto lead to two heading into the final frame.
While the second period wasn’t the Marlies’ best in this game, they responded with a dominant third-period performance to put the game to bed.
Carl Grundstrom struck the crossbar at the four-minute mark but it mattered little — 60 seconds later, Toronto surged out to a 5-2 lead. Mueller delivered the puck to Timashov under pressure and the diminutive winger did well to keep his composure and find Bracco in space in the right circle. No doubt with the words of the Marlies coaching staff ringing in his ears, Bracco drove the net, cut across the crease, and scored Marlies’ fifth of the night.
The Marlies proceeded to kill the game off with consummate ease, limiting the Moose to 10 shots and nothing in the way of high-grade scoring chances.
After Marchment and Moore came close to padding the scoreline, Toronto scored a sixth during 4-on-4 play. Brooks sent Moore away all alone on goal down the middle of the ice, where he made no mistake for his 14th of the season.
Bracco then rounded off the evening with his second of the game on a delightful piece of play. After breaking defensemen Nelson Nogier’s ankles by slamming on the breaks and pulling the puck around him, Bracco really should have shot, but his attempted pass to Grundstrom banked in off the skates of Logan Shaw to make it 7-2.
The game finished with some shenanigans: Andreas Borgman was clearly frustrated by the agitation by Manitoba and was tagged for roughing before Jardine was jumped by Tye McGinn with just 36 seconds remaining. Thankfully, Jardine had his wits about him and got the better of the eventual fight. The Toronto defenseman was also confronted and shoved on his way off the ice by Moose captain Peter Stoykewych, who somehow escaped a penalty.
The Marlies came through the game healthy, though, and thoroughly deserved the two points. Can they repeat the dose Saturday evening in search of the ever-elusive consistency?
Post Game Notes
– Jeremy Bracco had a four-point night for the second time in seven games. Even more encouraging: He’s heeding the coaching staff’s advice by not only shooting more (five shots in this game) but also driving to the net. He’s an easier prospect for opponents when he remains on the periphery looking for that killer pass that he loves to deliver.
After just two points in the opening nine games of the season, Bracco is up to 23 points in 26 games.
– Dmytro Timashov replaced Michael Carcone in the lineup and was fine without pulling up any trees. The primary assist on Jeremy Bracco’s goal was his best moment of the game.
– The kid line comprising of Mason Marchment, Adam Brooks and Trevor Moore was put back together after getting split up for the past two games. It paid dividends, as they were utterly dominant throughout the night – Moore scored twice and recorded nine shots on goal, Marchment registered two assists, and Adam Brooks netted the game-winner along with a primary assist.
– Eamon McAdam bounced back from the crushing first period last time out where he allowed three goals on five shots. The two saves he made on Manitoba’s first power play of the game appeared to give him a much-needed confidence boost. McAdam posted 26 saves for his sixth win of the season and both goals against were power-play markers.
– Calle Rosen won’t receive any plaudits for his performance, but he was excellent at both ends. Defensively assured once again, Rosen also produced offensively with the primary assist on Brooks’ goal and delivered the perfect stretch pass to create the odd-man rush that Jooris eventually scored on.
– Two assists for Chris Mueller gives him 15 for the season. It’s nice to see him overshadowed offensively as he’s had to carry the team of late. His seventh multi-point haul of the season ensures his total of 26 points (in 24 games) continues to lead the Marlies in scoring.
– Friday’s lines: