It took until the second period for the Toronto Marlies to find their footing in this matinee matchup against Rochester on Saturday.
Once they did, they took complete control of the game and demolished the same opponent that embarrassed them the previous night.
“Great response from our team,” said Greg Moore. “We were willing to do a lot of the little things we discussed before the game. We put together sequences we were looking for and have seen throughout the season.”
Neither team established their game in the opening frame, which ultimately turned into a special-teams battle.
Four power plays split equally did not provide either team with a breakthrough in the first period.
Toronto’s best chance of the frame occurred late in the period while shorthanded. Logan Shaw made a mess of a breakaway attempt, with Malcolm Subban forced into an easier save than it should have been.
The procession to the penalty box continued early in the middle frame, resulting in four-on-four action. Toronto should have taken the lead, but Shaw hit the post on a feed from Nick Abruzzese when it appeared easier to score.
The Amerks came close to getting their noses in front on their third power play. The puck was worked into the slot to Sean Malone, who looked odds-on to score when all alone. Keith Petruzzelli came up with a great right-toe save to rob the Rochester forward in what proved to be a turning point in the game.
Toronto immediately put Rochester under pressure back at five-on-five. Abruzzese stole possession and surged down the left wing before firing a pass into the slot that caused chaos in the crease but no finishing touch.
The first goal then arrived at the six-minute mark after Shaw worked the puck back up to Marshall Rifai at the point. The defenseman has been shooting more of late, and he was rewarded on this occasion after McMann’s perfect redirect in front gave the Marlies a 1-0 lead.
The pace and physicality of the game then ramped up, only disrupted by a cross-checking penalty on the Marlies. With a fourth successful penalty kill in the books, Toronto took control of the final nine minutes back at even strength.
Marc Johnstone rang a shot off the crossbar, and Max Ellis shot high with the goal at his mercy following a wraparound attempt by Joseph Blandisi.
There was no insurance marker forthcoming before the end of the period despite a bunch of scoring chances for the Marlies, keeping Rochester in the game for the time being.
Petruzzelli made a good save on Michael Mersch inside the opening minute and then easily took care of two efforts from Lawrence Pilut. That’s as close as Rochester came to tying the game.
Toronto doubled their lead inside six minutes after an excellent stretch pass from Matt Hellickson allowed Johnstone to burst in between two Amerks defensemen. Off-balance when he got a shot off, Johnstone stayed with the play after Subban made a save and the puck rebounded in off of the Marlies forward.
A fifth power play for the Amerks then resulted in a third goal for Toronto.
McMann stripped Ethan Prow of possession and looked set for a clean break on goal, but he appeared to kick the puck too far in front of him. Subban opted not to come out to make a clearance, though, and McMann made him pay with a confident finish.
The victory was assured by an empty-net goal as the game entered the final five minutes. Kyle Clifford made Pilut pay for some lackadaisical play in possession, stick-checking the Amerks defenceman to steal the puck before slotting it home into the vacant cage.
Toronto scored on their next shot to make it 5-0 as McMann completed his hat trick with a devastating shot from just above the hash marks.
The Marlies have somehow not recorded a shutout yet this season, but surely this would be the day? No dice as Filip Cederqvist broke Petruzzelli’s clean sheet with 2:09 remaining.
McMann almost netted a fourth goal in the dying seconds, but Subban denied the red-hot power forward on a shorthanded breakaway.
A 5-1 victory was the perfect tonic for the Marlies after a disappointing performance the night before.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies’ penalty kill went a perfect seven for seven, improving to 81.9% on the season. “[Assistant coach] Jon Snowden delivered a really good prescout before, and he challenged [the PKers] again to have a really high expectation for themselves,” said Moore.
– This was the first professional hat trick for Bobby McMann, who is playing the best hockey of his career right now. This was his fourth multi-goal game this season, taking his season total to 16 goals in just 25 games. He has 13 goals in his last 13 games.
“He is finding different ways to score goals, which is really important for him to keep working at building different layers and hopefully one day be a full-time NHL player,” said Moore. “This is a great platform for him to continue to experiment with different things. He knows to get to the net. He is a big, strong guy who can get early positioning at the crease. His hand-eye coordination has been great with the tips.”
– Logan Shaw registered a pair of helpers and now has 40 assists this season (tied for fourth in the AHL).
– It was a solid outing for Keith Petruzzelli, who turned aside 26 of 27 shots for the win, his 11th of the season in 16 starts.
“With Källgren back, [Petruzzelli] had to take a back seat a little bit,” said Moore. “That is not easy. He is not playing games like he wants to. To have that stretch and to come in now, we need to lean on him again. He is ready.
“His work ethic off the ice and in the weight room has been excellent. His mindset and personality is really the best part about him. He is a really chill guy who is fun to know and talk with. The energy he brings every day and the consistency allow him to step in and play as he did.”
– Semyon Der-Arguchintsev has been placed in concussion protocol. The more positive news is that Filip Kral is back to skating and is now engaged in full contact training.
– Saturday’s lines:
McMann – Shaw – Abruzzese
Clifford – Holmberg – Steeves
Blandisi – Johnstone – Ellis
Centazzo – Slaggert – Solow
Rifai – Miller
Hoefenmayer – Villeneuve
Hellickson – Pietroniro