A little over 24 hours since putting five goals past Utica, Toronto repeated the trick on Sunday afternoon.
It was a physical affair with 64 penalty minutes dished out, including two fights, as these two divisional rivals have a real dislike for one another already.
The home team edged the advantage with nine of the 16 power plays handed out and were able to take advantage on two occasions and a third within seconds of one expiring.
Rich Clune had been scratched for the home opener and came out like a bull in a china shop during his first shift.
Elbowing Carter Bancks in the head probably wasn’t intentional but it was a bad hit and the two combatants duelled it out with their fists shortly after.
The Marlies killed the first penalty of the game with ease but it was the visitors who looked likely to score first. Antoine Bibeau forced into a pair of early saves including a beauty to deny Curtis Valk.
After being under pressure for the opening 3:54, an unnecessary “Delay of game – Restricted area” penalty from goaltender Thatcher Demko turned the tide.
A series of efforts on net from Andrew Nielsen, Brendan Leipsic and Byron Froese, was followed by a telling touch from Andreas Johnsson to open the scoring a mere 13 seconds into the man advantage.
Four on four with Michael Chaput and Dymtro Timsahov in the box, presented extra space and Leipsic almost scored a contender for goal of the season. Showing great speed into the zone, he made the last Utica defenseman look silly with a mesmerising deke but Demko was equal to the backhand effort.
A little over eight minutes into the opening frame and Bibeau was lucky to come away unscathed after having four players converge on him. Thankfully the netminder was none the worse though somehow Nielsen ended up with the only penalty for holding.
Toronto rode their luck as Alexandre Grenier’s effort rang off the short side post but proved Utica’s only attempt at goal.
The last seven minutes would be penalty ridden, with the officials making bad calls all over the place.
The Marlies were able to draw themselves two straight power plays, coming close through Froese and Johnsson but were thankful for Bibeau staying alert to deny a short-handed chance.
Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen would end up in the box together after a pair of iffy calls within 46 seconds and to Utica’s credit they capitalised upon their good fortune to tie up the game.
After missing the target with one previous blast, Jordan Subban ripped a one-timer from the left circle, which found the net on Bibeau’s short side, top shelf.
Toronto were unable to convert on yet another power play, this time carried over from the first period but retook the lead 2:15 into the second.
With a burst of electrifying speed, Kapanen swept past three player down the left wing before cutting to the net and putting the puck past Demko.
It really should have been 2-2 right away as Utica earned themselves a four on one break.
Young Dermott did his best as the only Toronto player back to confuse the play but Bibeau was the hero with a huge double save to keep the slender advantage intact.
In what was a game of missed opportunities for the visitors, Troy Stecher fired high on a short-handed breakaway and Toronto made him pay by scoring as the man advantage elapsed.
Kapanen the architect with a gorgeous backdoor feed to the waiting Timashov, who gratefully accepted the invitation to score his first AHL goal.
The officiating may not have been up to standard but the visiting team could have no complaints as they gifted Toronto three power plays in the final 6:39 of the middle frame, including some minimal 5 on 3 time. The Marlies were unable to capitalise, in part due to Demko, and would hold a 3-1 lead heading into the final period.
The next goal would be huge in determining who would claim two points and Utica would have an early power play to try and bring themselves back into the game.
They barely had a sniff and were fortunate not to allow a fourth goal, with Rinat Valiev beating Demko to a long outlet pass but the defenseman wasted the short-handed opportunity.
The dagger to the heart of the Comets came a little over the six minute mark, as two of the older Marlies forwards combined. Colin Greening drove to the net and Colin Smith was on hand to pick up the loose puck and smash home his first of the season.
It was one-way blue and white traffic following the fourth goal, and the Marlies swarmed the home team’s zone, drawing yet another penalty.
From a few feet inside the blue line, Dermott appeared casual in possession before a quick release wrist shot beat Demko all ends up. Credit must go to the forwards in front of the net, especially Greening who was proving a handful to shift in front of the opposing goaltender.
The scoring was not done however, as 62 seconds later Utica were back on the power play and once again Subban rifled home past Bibeau, to draw his team within three with eight minutes to play.
As on Saturday, Utica never really looked like threatening Toronto’s advantage and would only record two shots on net during the remaining time.
In fact the only real action of note came courtesy of Valiev and Michael Corcone. The pair were in the box after a coming together and once released, decided to settle the affair with their fists.
A score draw was the result of that encounter but that was as good as it got for the Comets, who have been well and truly put in their place weekend, allowing ten goals to the Marlies potent offense and were frankly fortuitous it wasn’t more.
Post Game Notes:
Travis Dermott picked up his first professional assist and goal, and his five shots on net were the most by a defensemen during the game.
Kasperi Kapanen was a real livewire, adding a goal and two assists to his account, appearing full of confidence early in the season.
Just a solitary assist for Brendan Leipsic but again he was a pocket dynamo and caused Utica trouble every shift.
The ten goals in the first two games this year, is the best total since the beginning of the 2007-08 season when Toronto fired four and six past Rochester and Lake Erie respectively.
Antoine Bibeau only made 19 saves but came up with the crucial stops when the game was still close.
Dmytro Timashov came on leaps and bounds from his first outing and looks an interesting prospect. Showed he wasn’t afraid of shooting the puck with five efforts on net and took his chance well.