After falling behind 2-0 early, the Toronto Marlies composed themselves and battled hard to hang on for a 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the visiting Manitoba Moose at Ricoh Coliseum.
The Marlies relied on big performances by centre Tim Brent who scored a pair of goals and defenceman Phil Oreskovic who celebrated his first goal of the season. The divisional matchup was a big win for Toronto who are now only 8 behinds behind Manitoba for the final playoff spot.
The Marlies had another slow start on Wednesday night and were behind 1-0 on the first shift of the game. The Moose caught the Marlies napping and struck early, winger Michael Grabner scored only 11 seconds into the game.
About 8 minutes later, on the power-play, the Moose went ahead by two when Manitoba’s leading scorer Marco Rosa skated into the top of the slot and rifled a shot into the top shelf past Marlies goaltender Joey MacDonald.
A short while later the Marlies were on a power-play of their own when forward Kyle Calder tipped a Brendan Mikkelson point shot past Moose goalie Cory Schneider to cut the deficit to one. Toronto nearly tied it on another power-play but headed to the dressing room down 2-1.
Short-handed Goal Gives Marlies First Lead
For the most part, the second period was uneventful and neither team had any great chances until towards the end of the period. With the goalie pulled as the result of a delayed penalty, the Marlies moved up ice on a nice rush from Greg Scott who cut into the slot, letting go a backhand shot which was stopped by Schneider. Brent was on the doorstep and tapped in the rebound to tie the game at 2-2.
Just over a minute later, the Marlies’ Jonas Frogren was penalized two minutes for kneeing. On the ensuing power-play, the Marlies caught a break and headed down ice for a 2-on-1 break when Ben Simon slid the puck over to Oreskovic who potted an easy goal to put the Marlies up 3-2 going into the third period.
Less than five minutes into the third period, with the puck inside Manitoba’s zone, Brent picked up the puck at the half-boards, skated cross-ice through the slot and drove to the net and outwaited the Moose netminder before putting the puck into a gaping net. Brent’s second goal of the game put the Marlies up 4-2.
With less than eight minutes remaining, Brent picked up the puck in his zone and instead of making the safe clearing play off the boards he shot the puck up the middle. Moose defenceman Nolan Baumgartner knocked the puck out of mid-air and kept the puck in the Marlies end. The play continued and after a scramble in front of the Marlies net, Moose forward Sergei Shirokov jammed the puck past MacDonald who lay on the ice to close the gap to 4-3.
The Moose were able to take a time-out with a faceoff deep in the Marlies end and their goalie pulled with 48.9 seconds remaining, however, they weren’t able to get any scoring chances. With 34 seconds left, Moose defenceman Nick Boynton was penalized for delivering a cheapshot on Calder. Boynton checked Calder hard and knocked him head first into the boards but Calder would be ok as the Marlies hung on for a big 4-3 win.
The Marlies took over the game towards the end of the second period and were a much different team compared to the first ten minutes of the game. MacDonald made 22 saves to pick up his 9th win of the season.
Another Slow Start for the Marlies
Marlies coach Dallas Eakins wasn’t pleased with yet another slow start, but was impressed how his players responded.
“I was very concerned and I let it be known at my first timeout. It’s one of those things where your team comes out and gets scored on the first shift a lot of times coaches take it personally. You think you have prepared them the right way and they’re ready to go and it’s a big game and suddenly there’s quick breakdown like that, it rattles you a little bit. And then they got the second one, our team has been having trouble from coming back all season from two goals down or three goals down. But give our players credit they dug in deep, I shook up the lines and we started to take over the game slowly but surely.”
Brent’s two goals were significant contributions in the Marlies win but he emphasized the importance of veteran players Ben Ondrus and Ryan Hamilton returning to the line-up and providing leadership when down 2-0.
“We got down a little early there at the beginning but we got some good leadership coming back with Ondrus and Hamilton and I think we bounced back real well and got the points.”
This game was crucial for the Marlies who are chasing the Moose for the final playoff spot.
“It was a big win for us,” said Brent. “More importantly it was one of those divisional games where we’re scratching and clawing trying to get every point we can to climb the standings and hopefully earn a playoff spot. This was a huge win for us and I was happy to help out offensively. I think as a whole all four lines minus the first ten minutes were rolling tonight and contributed in the win.”
Oreskovic’s first goal came as a relief and at a crucial point in the game. He has worked hard all year but it took him some time to find his place in the line-up.
“Definitely it was nice to get the first one,” says Oreskovic. “It was a really exciting moment, it’s tough you go through games and put up shots, we’ve been going through some highs and lows with the team this year but definitely for myself that was great that I could help out my team offensively and pop that goal for us. It’s really exciting to get some of the nerves out and enjoy myself and it was really nice to get one.”
Eakins and the rest of the bench were just as excited about Oreskovic’s goal.
“They love it, the bench was going crazy. And I think it was the first time all year where I threw my arms up in the air. You’re so excited for the kid, plus it was a massive goal for us. We just had a questionable penalty call and a missed one against us and then suddenly we get one shorthanded. That was the change in the game right there.”
The Marlies are back in action again on Friday night as they continue their 4-game homestand when they take on the Texas Stars at Ricoh Coliseum, start time is 7pm.
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