It was all about hitting the reset button and being competitive again for the Toronto Marlies.
Five days after losing their third straight game, Toronto showed their intent by blitzing one of the better teams in the Atlantic Division.
Too often of late, Toronto have been slow out of the gates, allowing opponents to jump on top of them and score the opening goal of the game.
That would not be in the case on this occasion however.
Connor Brown tested Mike McKenna with a snapshot a minute in and Portland’s goaltender had to be alert shortly after to hold onto a blast from the blue line by debutant Taylor Doherty.
An error from Brendan Leipsic enabled an odd man rush for the home team but Brett Olsen fired wide on the feed from Corban Knight.
The Marlies would make them pay for not taking that single chance with two goals in 43 seconds.
Percy with the outlet pass from his own zone enabled a 3 on 2 break. Brown combined with Josh Leivo who in turn teed up Mark Arcobello to fire home a one time shot from the bottom of the left circle.
It was an exquisite passing move that deserved a goal.
The second wasn’t quite so nice but Tobias Lindberg on a set-up from Rich Clune, absolutely ripped his one-timer through traffic and by McKenna.
From the restart Tony Turgeon took a run on Clune, who would not engage his opponent. Despite dropping his gloves and clearly throwing punches, the Pirates forward only received a roughing penalty in an interesting call from the officials.
Leivo should have buried a feed from Leivo but fired wide. Another sweet passing play would follow and it appeared Lindberg had made it 3-0 on the power play. It looked a goal during real time but was rightly waived off after video review. Lindberg had said too much to the officials and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, bringing an untimely end to the man advantage.
Toronto killed the minute or so of Portland’s power play and set writing what seemed a wrong at the time.
David Kolomatis and Leivo would both test McKenna before Toronto solved the net minder for the third time inside eleven minutes. Another odd man rush and Kapanen cut back inside his man in the left circle before finding Colin Smith with a perfect pass to his right for his 17th of the season.
It saw the premature end of McKenna’s night although he was not at fault for his team being in a hole this early in the game.
Rocco Grimaldi has five goals in as many goals and Antoine Bibeau robbed him on a breakaway with a fine save away to his right. Portland would get themselves on the board at the fifteen minute mark.
Wayne Simpson with the saucer pass across the crease from the right wing and Wade Megan scored with an excellent tip in front that gave Bibeau little chance.
Toronto’s net minder would be required to make two big saves before the period end but recently inserted Sam Brittain at the opposite end of the ice was having to work harder just to keep his team in the game. A late flurry on the power play somehow failed to bring about a fourth goal despite Brittain floundering after saving from T.J Brennan and no Marlies player able to capitalise on the loose puck.
The opening 3:30 of the middle frame gave little indication of what was to follow.
Unable to score on the remainder of their power play, the Marlies would have to kill a penalty of their own.
A minute later though and it was 4-1. Despite losing a face-off in Portland’s zone, Toronto won back possession and Leipsic had the last touch on what looked initially to be a goal by Sam Carrick. It took another review to decide whether this one stood and it looked less likely than the first, but it would stand. Just 121 seconds later and Toronto tallied on the man advantage. A fine feed from Brown allowed Lindberg to wind up and blast home a one time shot that is becoming something of a trademark during his short time with the Marlies. 5-1 quickly became 5-2 as Portland fought right back.
A bouncing shot from Shane Harper would be redirected in front by former Marlie Greg McKegg.
Leivo would conspire to miss the net on another good opportunity as would Lindberg before Toronto caught a break with Portland hitting the post at the midway mark.
It was as if the Marlies took offence to their hosts coming close to finding the twice once again and set about the Pirates, scoring a further three goals in a seven minute span.
Justin Holl with a swift give and go play with Arcobello before rifling home past the blocker of Brittain.
Arcobello would be denied on a backhand short-side attempt while Rob Schremp batting the puck in with a high stick was never going to stand. After being frustrated in front of net, Arcobello would turn provider for Brown, enabling the winger to score his first of the game with a booming one time shot.
Having had his earlier goal credited to Leipsic, Carrick would get his name on the score sheet by tipping home a long range effort from Campbell.
That would be the Marlies second power play goal of the game and round out the scoring after forty minutes.
Leading 8-2 heading into the final frame, there would be no let-up from this Marlies team.
A testament to what Sheldon Keefe has tried to instil in them through this season, Toronto remained fully focussed and could well have hit double figures for the second time this year.
How Toronto didn’t hit ten or more is a mystery as they made so many opportunities during the third period, although some credit must go to rookie goaltender Brittain.
He would deny Leivo ninety seconds in and remained dialled in to stop the follow up effort.
Kolomatis would also be turned aside while Arcobello and Leivo yet again somehow contrived to not to score on a huge rebound from a Brennan shot. Bibeau would make just three saves of note as Portland were just trying to hang in and perhaps win the final period of play for something to take from the game.
The fourth line was getting more ice time as the game wore on and Frederick Gauthier would see his booming effort from the left side ring off the post.
Leipsic couldn’t find the net on a breakaway after an excellent pass from Carrick sent him alone on net but the ninth goal would finally arrive.
Arcobello and Brown the architects for Leivo to finally smash one home from the slot, a shot which encapsulated a frustrating time in front of net from the recently reassigned forward.
That would end the scoring and 9-2 was the final as Portland were unable to live with a thoroughly dominate performance from Toronto.
Post Games Notes:
Toronto Marlies have now scored 9+ goals in a game four times this season. The other 29 AHL teams combined have scored 9+ goals in a game twice.
The five goals scored in the second period is a seasonal high after scoring four times on two previous occasions.
Four point games for Mark Arcobello and Connor Brown (both 1G/3A) with the former’s three assists all being primary.
A double strike for Tobias Lindberg means he has five goals in as many games and could have easily had himself a hat-trick.
Rich Clune’s solitary assist takes him to twenty points for the season in just 36 games.
T.J Brennan responded to being reassigned by putting up two helpers and was unlucky not to find the net at least once. His points tally stands at 57 points from 60 games.
Josh Leivo will wonder how he only scored once as he led all skaters with seven shots. At least four of those were good chances and he fired two other wide. A two point game still and perhaps he’s saving those for another day.
Taylor Doherty didn’t look out of depth on the debut, even registering an assist on the seventh goal. He was paired with Stuart Percy in a partnership look set to remain for the rest of the weekend.