This game was circled on the calendar after Syracuse handed the Toronto Marlies an 8-1 thrashing at Coca-Cola Coliseum back on December 12.
Thanks to a clicking power play and a stout defensive effort, the Marlies were able to exact a measure of revenge against the Crunch and extend their current winning streak to three games in the process with a 5-2 victory on Saturday.
The Marlies got off to a fast start to the game, drawing a four-minute power play that was cut short by Adam Brooks’ holding penalty. Once Brooks finished his penalty, he promptly opened the scoring from the slot following set-up work by Sam Gagner and Chris Mueller.
Toronto then doubled its lead at the 12-minute mark with another power play marker. Extended pressure in the offensive zone resulted in a two-man advantage for the Marlies, and Sam Gagner’s shot took at least one wicked deflection before the puck found its way past Eddie Pasquale.
Eamon McAdam was called into action to deny Ross Colton on a breakaway and hold onto a long-range shot through traffic from Dominik Masin to preserve the lead. The goaltender’s efforts included remaining solid during the Marlies first penalty kill, and the reward was another goal just 36 seconds short of the intermission buzzer.
Steve Oleksy was afforded time in the middle of the ice, albeit from distance, and the veteran defenseman sent a bullet of a shot past a shell-shocked Pasquale to give Toronto a healthy 3-0 advantage at the first break.
The Marlies got off to the worst possible start to the middle frame due to a moment to forget for Eamon McAdam. Misplaying the puck behind his net, he presented a tap-in goal for Carter Verhaeghe just seven seconds in.
The response, however, was encouraging. The Marlies could have caved following a bit of a shocking early blow, but instead, they spent the majority of the next 2-3 minutes inside the Syracuse zone establishing a strong forecheck and cycle.
However, the Crunch narrowed the lead to one with a second straight goal shortly after Mason Marchment came within inches of scoring on a perfect feed from Michael Carcone.
The Crunch, who own the second-best power play in the AHL, made their next man advantage count as Cory Conacher hammered a one-timer shot from the right circle far-side past McAdam.
With the game now in the balance, Toronto drew a penalty and did everything but score with the extra man before Colin Greening rang a shot off the iron back at even strength.
McAdam was forced into one save of note, gloving a shot by Taylor Raddysh before Toronto re-established a two-goal advantage with a little under three minutes remaining.
It was their third power play goal of the game and a pretty one at that, as Gagner threaded a pass to Mueller standing above the blue paint and the veteran forward found the net with a deft backhand finish to put the Marlies ahead 4-2.
The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on Jeremy Bracco, who fished the puck out of the net, with the goal marking the 500th career AHL point for Mueller.
The Marlies almost fully restored their three-goal advantage with just 15 seconds left in the middle frame, but Carl Grundstrom became the second Marlie to hit the post in the period.
You were expecting a big push in the third period from the high-scoring Crunch, but it never really materialized as the Marlies gave the Syracuse limited space to maneuver through the neutral zone and managed the puck with care, albeit without creating much of anything in the way of scoring looks in the offensive end.
The Crunch were limited to just seven shots through the final 20 minutes despite earning two power plays and pulling Pasquale for an extra attacker with four minutes remaining.
The win was secured by Brooks sliding the puck into the vacant cage with 70 seconds left as the Marlies found the net with their lone shot of the period for a 5-2 final scoreline.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies have outscored their opponents 15-7 during their current three-game winning streak.
– Sam Gagner recorded a season-high four points (1-3-4) and all were primary markers.
“I thought he worked extremely hard away from the puck,” said Sheldon Keefe. “He competed. Everyone was on the board here tonight and Gags helped lead the way.”
– Adam Brooks scored on the power play for a second straight game and added the empty-netter to give him seven for the season — just one shy of last years tally.
– Chris Mueller recorded his third straight multi-point haul (1-1-2) to take him to the 500 career point mark (208-292-500), the 95th player in AHL history to do so. He’s now fifth overall in league scoring with 38 points (19-19-38) this season.
“It’s a testament to the impact he’s made, not just in our organization but in others, to accumulate such numbers,” said Keefe. “You look at a game like today, and he gets a huge goal for us. That’s what he’s been doing all year, but he also just competed hard and is very vocal on the bench. He’s a big part of our team.”
– A special mention for the defense core as a whole: As a six-man unit, they were excellent up against the most potent offense in the Eastern Conference.
– Eamon McAdam posted 24 saves for his eighth win and did all that was required of him, bar for his brain lapse to begin the second period.
– Toronto’s road record improved to 9-5-3.