The Toronto Marlies came out with another inspired start, scoring two goals in the first period while playing well in front of goaltender James Reimer who picked up his first shutout of the season for a 2-0 victory over the Manitoba Moose in front of 6,435 at Ricoh Coliseum.
It was the Marlies’ third straight victory this week and also their third straight win over the Moose in eight days. With the win, Toronto has moved back into the playoff picture now only six points behind both the Moose and Abbotsford Heat for the final playoff spot and eight points behind the second place Rochester Americans.
Viktor Stalberg opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game. With a scrum in front of the Moose net, Stalberg was able to bang in a loose puck past goalie Daren Machesney. Greg Scott and Tim Brent both drew assists on the play.
The Marlies struck again late in the period with a power-play goal when Kyle Calder banged in a rebound at right side of the net while being knocked down from behind. Defencemen Juraj Mikus and Josh Engel assisted on Calder’s sixth goal of the season as he extended his point to a season-high seven games.
Toronto dominated the first period by establishing the pace and the Moose simply could not keep up. The Marlies took advantage of firing a lot of shots on Machesney who hadn’t played in three weeks, outshooting the Moose 18-7 and leading 2-0 after the first period.
Stronger Effort from Moose in Final Two Periods
Manitoba came out with more energy in the second period and were able to get far more shots on Reimer. But the Marlies allowed Reimer to see the majority of the pucks fired at him and were very efficient with clearing away any rebounds and loose pucks.
Seven minutes into the second, Moose forward Tom Maxwell delivered a late hit on a Marlies player. Defenceman Brennan Evans took exception and said something to Maxwell that set him off – Maxwell had to be restrained by an official as he tried to get at Evans.
Later in the period the two decided to drop their gloves in front of the Manitoba bench and Evans laid down a beating, landing several punches to the delight of the crowd. The fight continued for a long while before the officials separated both players. While the fight was going on the remaining players on the ice from both teams began pushing and shoving each other as well. Other fights seemed likely until cooler heads prevailed.
Mid-way through the third period, the Marlies took back-to-back penalties and the Moose came close to scoring on numerous occasions. Reimer was very sharp and made save after save frustrating Manitoba shooters. In one sequence, Reimer made two brilliant glove saves to keep his shutout intact.
Shortly after killing both penalties, Calder came close to putting his team up by three goals when he hit the post on a two-on-one rush with Christian Hanson.
With 1:23 left in the game Manitoba pulled their goalie but were not able to get any scoring chances as the Marlies held on for a 2-0 victory. The Moose outshot Toronto 24-14 in the final two periods but Reimer was perfect all game, stopping all 32 shots to pick up his eighth victory of the season.
Marlies Coming Together at the Right Time
Coach Dallas Eakins thought his team played well all game, especially the first period.
“I think we came out with a great, great first period and kind of set the table for the pace of the game and how we’re going to play and once again we never came off it. I know we outshot them substantially in the first and they slowly came back with the shot count but that’s the game. I think our ‘D’ played well, I thought our forwards were engaged and Reimer made some saves when he needed to.”
Reimer didn’t have to make many difficult saves and also praised his team playing well in front of him.
“I just made the saves that I had to and the boys played well, they fought hard, blocked shots and they (Manitoba) could have had a lot more chances than they did,” said Reimer.
“We got a lot of chemistry now, we got all of our lines set, everyone’s clicking we have no passengers. I know that sounds kind of cliché but it’s true we all of our guys are dialled into the game plan and are doing everything they can to win. Today, there’s a bunch of times they’re laying down to block shots, taking a pass away backdoor. They played a heck of a game.”
According to Eakins, forward Andre Deveaux has the ability to get under the skin of the Moose players and did exactly that on Saturday.
“This rivalry has been going on for not just for this year but years past and Andre Deveaux is a fire-stick to them and I had him under strict instructions tonight, he was not to fight and just go out there and play and let them come to him. And that’s what he was doing, he had them very rattled, upset and I thought Manitoba wasn’t disciplined.”
Deveaux, who was being pestered by Moose players all game, likes the intensity when playing against divisional rivals.
“I’d rather have games like this where it’s intense than being up 3 goals or down 3 goals and it’s pretty nonchalant. I thought it was a pretty intense game for 60 minutes. There’s a big rivalry, these games and when we play Hamilton, those are circled on my calendar.”
The Marlies are now off until Wednesday night when they travel to Hamilton to take on the Bulldogs in another divisional matchup. The Marlies return home to take on AHL’s best team and 2009 Calder Cup Champions, the Hershey Bears, on Thursday at 7pm at Ricoh Coliseum.
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