The Toronto Marlies made it a perfect two-for-two start to the season with a 3-2 win in Manitoba on Friday.
Their offensive firepower was enough at the end of the day, but the Marlies had to work for the two points after the Moose twice clawed back within a goal in a mixed performance overall from Toronto.
The opening period began with 90 seconds of sustained zone time in the Manitoba end until Matt Read took a sloppy tripping penalty. The teams then exchanged a power play apiece without breaking through before the deadlock was snapped at even strength with almost nine minutes on the clock.
Read made amends as he gathered speed through the neutral zone before finding Tyler Gaudet across the offensive blue line. Gaudet drove hard to the net and was poke-checked by goaltender Mikhail Berdin before the loose puck was swept home by Egor Korshkov.
Jeremy Bracco was denied an opportunity to double the lead by a good save from Berdin before the Moose tied the game with 14:10 on the clock. Some sloppy play in their own zone and an ability to clear the puck cost the Marlies, although Kasimir Kaskisuo was frustrated to be beaten by Andrei Chibisov’s long-range, low-scuttling shot.
With under three minutes remaining, Toronto restored their first-period advantage thanks to a nicely-worked breakout play. Pontus Aberg carried through the neutral zone and picked out Pierre Engvall motoring down the left side in space. With room to measure his shot, the big Swede sniped past Berdin from the left circle.
Penalties were the story of the middle frame as the temperature of the game ratcheted up a notch.
The Marlies presented Manito with a tying goal just over two minutes in — Bracco was the culprit after he was stripped of the puck as the last man back on the power play and Logan Shaw made no mistake in alone on Kaskisuo, beating the Finnish netminder with a beautiful backhand finish.
Ben Harpur almost combined with Hudson Elynuik before the five-minute mark, but the scuffle after the play led to Garrett Wilson and Jimmy Oligny dropping the gloves.
Both teams then hit the crossbar on a power play each — Engvall for Toronto and Seth Griffith for Manitoba.
Late in the period, the Moose slid the puck past Kaskisuo, but the goal was quickly and correctly waived off. Liberties were taken with the Toronto goaltender, tempers flared again, and Adam Brooks stepped in for his goaltender by taking umbrage with Skyler McKenzie.
Kaskisuo regained his composure and made consecutive sharp saves to deny Kristian Vesalainen, ensuring the score was tied at 2-2 heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
It was the Marlies‘ turn to strike early in a period as they finally made use of a man advantage, although it wasn’t officially a power play goal. Toronto struck on a delayed penalty after Gaudet redirected a blast from the point by Jordan Schmaltz.
The Marlies comfortably played their best hockey of the entire game for much of the third period; they were very much in control without ever turning possession into an insurance marker.
The push back from the Moose arrived in the final six minutes. The Marlies were certainly bent out of shape, but they never broke — even after Berdin was pulled for the final minute and a half and a delay of game penalty by Schmaltz put Toronto down to four men for 46 seconds.
Kaskisuo made the eight saves required of him in the final frame as Toronto held onto a 3-2 victory they probably deserved on the balance of play.
Post Game Notes
– Egor Korshkov opened the scoring for a second straight game and looks like a vastly more confident player compared to the one we saw in last year’s playoff campaign.
– Playing in his 300th AHL game, Tyler Gaudet picked up the game-winning goal, first star, and two points on the night with an assist on the opening goal. The line of Korshkov-Gaudet-Read was excellent throughout the game and proved a real handful for Manitoba.
“That was a very good line for us today,” said Keefe. “It’s going to take us some time to figure out who are the right people to play with each other, but we like what we see so far. We’ll probably experiment as we get moving along. We’ve got some guys in Kossila and Agostino that didn’t play today and we think are going to be really good and important players for us. Once we get them healthy, that’s going to change our look.”
– Kasimir Kaskisuo posted 20 saves for the victory. He likely wants the first goal back, but he was otherwise solid and steady, particularly when the Marlies were holding onto a slim lead late on.
– Friday’s lines