Shorn of their four best players, the Toronto Marlies pulled out an impressive all-round performance where many others stepped upto the plate.
Facing a defensively solid Albany Devils team who has won seven of their last games, Toronto would strike twice in the opening five minutes to blow the game open
The visiting Devils were out-worked down low by Toronto’s fourth shift and Gauthier was allowed to turn and shot from the slot to score the game opener.
Colin Smith opened his Marlies account with a flourish on Saturday and he decided to repay that favour to another Toronto new boy in Tobias Lindberg. The Marlies orchestrated an odd man rush and Smith’s delightfully weighted pass found Lindberg who beat four trailing Albany players to score backdoor.
The Devils almost responded at the six minute mark but Antoine Bibeau made a fine left pad save to deny Brian O’Neill.
Toronto were able to kill off their first penalty of the game but within seconds of the power play expiring, Albany came within inches of opening their account and halving the deficit.
A shot from Seth Helgeson was redirected in front but the ping of iron saved Toronto.
Toronto’s penalty kill was excellent during this encounter and in denying Albany on their second power play of the period it was the home team who carved out the best scoring opportunities.
A man advantage for the Marlies would prove fruitless and Toronto were well worthy of a two goal lead heading into the intermission.
The second period would provide the turning point of the game and see Antoine Bibeau perform miracles between the pipes for his team.
The visitors began brightly and drew themselves another power play which again saw them blanked with excellent play, in particular from Connor Brown and Sam Carrick.
Back at even strength, Matt Frattin sent Josh Leivo on the breakaway with a long outlet pass but Leivo’s effort would find the cross to the relieve of Yann Danis in net for Albany.
Brett Findlay showed his skill in tight for the umpteenth time in recent weeks but Danis thrust out a left pad to deny the Toronto forward a highlight reel goal.
A turnover from Justin Holl allowed Jim O’Brien to race away alone on Bibeau with seven minutes on the clock. Holl looked on in relief as Bibeau got a piece of the shot with his glove to deflect the puck wide.
A minute later and the Devils were thankful to Danis once more. A broken play fell kindly to Leivo who launched into a one timer that drew a magnificent save from the experienced goaltender.
The 45 seconds or so of play that followed shortly afterwards was absolutely remarkable. With Toronto scrambling in front of their own net, Albany had at least seven golden chances from the slot area that Bibeau somehow turned aside with fantastic athleticism. In between there was a huge block from Andrew Campbell as the Marlies survived the barrage. It was the turning point of the game as a bewildered and frustrated Albany fell behind 3-0. Carrick created some room for himself before sending Lindberg away down the left side. With no hesitation and bags of confidence after scoring his first, Lindberg released a wicked, unstoppable shot that beat Danis via his far post.
Another power play for Albany, with 52 seconds remaining in the second period, would only add to their frustration. With the last action a shot from the right looked like it may have had the beating of Bibeau but Campbell dived full length to his left to stop the shot with some part of his head.
Toronto never really looked in any danger of allowing Albany back into the game during the final twenty minutes and in fact rubbed salt into the wound with a short-handed goal. Frattin chipped the puck down the left and Mark Arcobello was on it like a flash. Danis had no chance as Arcobello went bar down to make it 4-0.
With ten minutes remaining the game was only about two things at this stage.
Could Lindberg score a hat-trick and would Bibeau register his first shutout of the season?
The answer to the first was sadly no.
He came pretty darn close though as one effort hit the post on the powerplay with the goal judge thinking the puck had crossed the line.
A rebound inside the last two minutes almost fell for Lindberg but it wasn’t quite to be for him but he would be delighted to open his account with a brace.
Antoine Bibeau however would hold on for the shutout, in part thanks to Toronto’s structure as they allowed just four shots against.
A much improved effort after the undisciplined game played against Rochester and this is the way forward with a slightly different looking roster for the remainder of the regular season.
Post Game Notes:
The short-handed goal was a league leading 12th by the Marlies and the first allowed by Albany this season.
Frederick Gauthier’s goal was his fifth of the season and he had a very noticeable game offensively in the absence of Nikita Soshnikov. Really stepped upto the plate with the extra responsibility.
Toronto’s penalty kill blanked Albany on six occasions and truth be told barely gave them a sniff. Assignments were kept and leading goal scorer Mike Sislo was kept very quiet.
Antoine Bibeau made 24 saves for his first shutout for the season. That’s the fifth in his career and a good sign as he looks to carry the load the rest of the way.
A double strike for Tobias Lindberg who improves every game. Now upto speed and seems to be flourishing alongside Smith and Carrick.