“We got better every shift, and the guys stuck to our game plan. The younger defensemen have really started to play extremely well. They are getting some confidence. They are understanding how to win and be consistent.”

– John Gruden

After weathering an early storm, the Marlies found the scoring touch that has eluded them at times this season. Their confidence with the puck offensively was evident as Toronto hung eight goals on a competitive Providence team.

First Period

The opening 20 minutes of the game certainly did not indicate a blowout victory for the Marlies was in the cards. Providence, who entered this game riding an eight-game point streak, got off to a fast start to the opening frame.

The Bruins fired the first eight shots without response, including creating some promising scoring chances on the game’s first power play. Dennis Hildeby turned them all aside, including Fabian Lysell on a partial breakaway.

Providence seemed to lose their rhythm following a fight. After Matteo Pietroniro laid a big and fair hit that Joey Abate took umbrage with, the Marlies defenseman stepped up to the plate and handled Abate in as one-sided a fight as I’ve seen this season.  For his part in the fight, Abate was awarded two, five, and 10 but was not thrown from the game.

Toronto’s new five-forward power play went to work and nearly connected at the first time of asking. Joseph Blandisi lifted a rebound up and over the bar much to his disappointment, but there were some good looks for Rich Clune’s unit.

20 after the penalty expired, Hildeby came up with another huge save. Anthony Richard broke in free and clear, but the Bruins again could not solve Toronto’s netminder.

At the other end, Kieffer Bellows lost the handle on a breakaway of his own.

Providence broke the deadlock at the 14-minute mark with a goal the Marlies should have handled better. After an offensive-zone turnover led to a 2-on-2 back the other way, the Bruins’ Jayson Megna capitalized on a messy broken play.

Toronto turned the game around in the final four minutes of the period with the calibre of clinical finishing that was sorely absent during their lengthy losing streak.

After a neutral-zone turnover resulted in an odd-man rush, Nick Abruzzesse and Alex Steeves combined to spring Dylan Gambrell, who delivered a pinpoint backhand finish for his third goal of the campaign.

The Marlies finished the frame on the penalty kill, but it didn’t stop them from taking a lead into the first intermission. Logan Shaw and Joseph Blandisi outworked the Bruins’ power play before the former made no mistake with his finish.

Second Period

The Marlies blew the game wide open by scoring four times in 12 minutes much to the shock of a silenced home crowd.

After killing the penalty carrying over from the first period, Toronto struck on the power play at the four-minute mark. Logan Shaw’s trademark finish doubled his tally and Toronto’s lead.

That goal signaled the end of netminder Michael DiPietro’s night as he was replaced between the pipes by Brandon Bussi, who was then beaten inside two minutes.

Toronto’s third line ran Providence ragged, setting the stage for the Marlies’ top line to deliver the goods. Mikko Kokkonen’s point shot found the net, giving the defenseman his second goal in three games.

Kieffer Bellows then made it 5-1 Toronto after some excellent set-up work by Ryan Tverberg.

Three minutes later, the Marlies power play struck for a second time as Gambrell — who is finally finding his groove in front of goal — netted his second of the game.

Toronto had two more power play opportunities but failed to capitalize on either as Providence avoided further damage before the intermission buzzer.

Third Period

Despite trailing 6-1, Providence showed some pride in attempting to reduce the deficit in the opening minute of the final frame. Dennis Hildeby robbed Georgii Merkulov to snuff out any designs on an unlikely Bruins comeback.

Pietroniro put salt into the wound by scoring Toronto’s seventh of the game shortly afterward. You know it’s not your day when a defenseman of Pietroniro’s skill set scores his first of the campaign against you.

Max Ellis was turned aside on a breakaway at the five-minute mark, but Toronto did go on to find an eighth. Topi Niemelä became the sixth different Marlie — and the third Marlies defenseman — to score. 

Hildeby gave up a second goal as Providence recorded a power-play tally via Merkulov, but it was rough justice for the Swedish netminder, who once again came up with the big saves needed when the game was in the balance.

Post Game Notes

Alex Steeves has set a new franchise point record at 14 consecutive games. The winger has accumulated 11 goals and nine assists in that span after picking up two helpers in this outing.

– Spectacular in this game, Dylan Gambrell has perhaps found the offensive jumping-off-point or momentum builder he badly needed this season. Four points, including two goals, gave Gambrell his second multi-point game of the year.

“I talked to [Gambrell] at the beginning of the year about giving him some power-play time that he hasn’t seen in two or three years being a fourth-line guy up in the NHL,” said Gruden. “This is a really good time while he is here — he is a hard-working guy — to work on his offensive game. Now, he is taking advantage of it.”

Logan Shaw scored twice to extend his point streak to four games (3G/3A). Linemate Ryan Tverberg‘s assist extended his assist streak to four games (4A) spanning either side of an injury that sidelined him for six weeks.

Nick Abruzzese and Joseph Blandisi registered two assists each. The former leads the team in assists with 14 this season.

“The leadership we have with Shaw, Blandisi, and Clifford set the tone,” said Gruden. “Especially our younger defensemen have really started to play extremely well; they’re getting some confidence, and they’re understanding how to win and be consistent. The tone is set with our leadership.”

– A 32-save performance by Dennis Hildeby earned him his sixth win of the campaign. He’s given up two or fewer goals in eight of 11 games this season.

– Friday’s lineup:

Bellows – Shaw – Tverberg
Abruzzese – Gambrell – Steeves
Clifford – Blandisi – Ellis
Mastrosimone – Slavin – Solow

Kokkonen – Niemelä
Pietroniro – Gaunce
Rifai – Miller


Post-Game Media Availability: Pietroniro, Gambrell & Gruden