Greg Moore was a happy man as the Toronto Marlies came out swinging right from the get-go and effectively wrapped up victory inside 40 minutes against San Antonio on Sunday.
The 6-1 victory means the Marlies regain a playoff berth, albeit in the fourth spot. Just four points separate first to fifth in the North Division and Syracuse is just four points back of Laval in fifth.
Both Kalle Kossila and Teemu Kivihalme forced good saves out of Ville Husso inside the opening four minutes before some hard work from Kristians Rubins along the boards in the offensive zone drew a penalty.
The power play has lacked fluidity of late, but after a few near misses, Toronto made good on their first man advantage through Tanner MacMaster.
I’ve been a huge advocate of Scott Pooley’s game for a little while now, and just like on Saturday night, he turned in a good performance on Sunday and was able to turn that into some point production.
At the midway mark, Pooley showed speed and strength on a partial break, but he couldn’t solve Husse. Pooley only had to wait for three minutes for his second chance of the game, and he made no mistake after taking off down right wing into space. Pooley ignored Rich Clune on the 2-on-1 and sent the water bottle flying with a perfectly-placed finish.
The penalty kill struggled in Texas on Saturday evening but survived on the first occasion it went to work against the Rampage, albeit with a little help from Joseph Woll to preserve the two-goal advantage.
Toronto took a three-goal lead into the intermission thanks to a second strike on the power play. Secondary assists are generally overlooked, but the fantastic effort by Kalle Kossila to strip the puck from Austin Poganski as he attempted to clear the zone set the stage. Kossila found Kenny Agostino at the hash marks, where Agostino faked a slapshot before finding Nic Petan, who scored on the second attempt after putting the initial effort off the post.
There was no let-up by Toronto to begin the second period — they struck just 62 seconds in. A crafty piece of play by Pontus Aberg, who faked to go around the net and banked the puck in off the back of the San Antonio goaltender, put the Marlies up 4-0.
Woll made two saves of note to keep the Rampage off the scoreboard: Alexey Toropchenko was robbed on a rebound opportunity in tight before the rookie goaltender made another good stop on Poganski and then stood tall on a San Antonio power play.
The result wasn’t in doubt once Garrett Wilson redirected a point shot from Timothy Liljegren with 16:31 played. Toronto could have made it six before the intermission, but the power play couldn’t convert on its third attempt.
San Antonio opted to swap Husso with Adam Wilcox to begin the final frame in a puzzling move that appeared 20 minutes too late in terms of impacting the game.
It made no difference to Pooley, who escaped down the left wing thanks to Clune’s flip pass and ripped a shot past Wilcox at the eight-minute mark to give Toronto a 6-0 lead.
The only question was now if Toronto could protect the shutout for Woll, who had played so well despite the lopsided scoreline.
The answer was no, as the Marlies paid the price for a lack of discipline in the third period. Three straight penalties in six minutes isn’t the way to see out a clean sheet for the goaltender, with Mike Vecchione breaking the Rampage’s goose egg on the first power-play opportunity.
The rookie goaltender closed the door from there, however, as Toronto closed out a much needed 6-1 victory to end their three-game losing slide.
Post Game Notes
– Timothy Liljegren extended his point streak to seven games (1-7-8) with his 20th assist of the season. His 24 points in 33 games rank the Swedish blueliner 10th in scoring among AHL defensemen.
– Scott Pooley netted twice in an AHL game for the first time in his career and the right-winger continues to make a strong case for remaining with the Marlies for the remainder of the season.
“He played great,” said Moore. “He is a goal scorer. It is good to see him get some puck touches and opportunities. He has proven that he can put the puck in the back of the net. He is playing with a bit more calmness and confidence.”
– That’s a fourth goal in three games for Nic Petan, who also recorded his fifth multi-point haul of the season. It’s highly doubtful that his 19-points-in-13-game pace is sustainable, but he continues to be a difference-maker, especially on the power play, where he’s tallied six of his seven goals.
– Joseph Woll’s statistics are nothing to write home about, but they fail to tell the story of his performances this season. After this win, his record improves to 7-8-2 with a .898 save percentage. He posted 40 saves for the victory, and as per Todd Crocker, he is 2-0-1 when making 40+ saves this season.
“He gave us some big stops, especially in the second period,” said Moore. “We spent some time in our own end, but he looked really solid and really calm, and he was seeing the puck really well through traffic.”
– Tanner MacMaster broke a 10-game pointless streak by registering a goal and an assist and looked more at home on the fourth line centering Clune and Pooley.
– Kenny Agostino has a point in each of his last five games (2-3-5).
– As per Todd Crocker, Egor Korshkov is out because his leg laceration hasn’t fully healed while Ben Harpur has a concussion.
– Sunday’s lines: