Marlies down league leading Pens
Kerby Rychel has watched as Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic have lit up the American Hockey League this season.
Rychel has been far from a passenger however, putting in some fine performances but has proven luckless on countless occasions in front of net.
Until tonight that is, as he finally shifted the monkey off his bank with a double strike, helping Toronto to an impressive road victory.
It was the first placed WBS Pens who began strongly and had the first power play of the game not two minutes in.
Antoine Bibeau was called upon to make just one save as despite some good looks for the home team, Toronto’s penalty kill stood upto the early test.
The Marlies had to wait until around the six minute mark for their first real spell of pressure as the Leivo-Gauthier-Kapanen line took the hosts to task inside their own zone.
It would eventually lead to Toronto’s first power play of the game and the opening goal.
Christian Jarry was forced into two good saves inside the first few seconds of hi team’s penalty kill, while Rychel fired just wide from in tight.
It was familiar faces who combined to set-up the goal. Brendan Leipsic finding a seam to get the puck to Kasperi Kapanen by the left of the net. The Finnish winger wasted no time in sending a cross crease pass to Rychel waiting backdoor, who had the simplest tap-in for his first Toronto goal.
The Marlies were energised by scoring first and the home crowd were eerily quiet as the road team took control of the game. On a set-up from Tobias Lindberg, Colin Smith was only denied from what would have been a pretty goal by a fine save from Jarry.
WBS would survive a Toronto barrage and almost tied the game up just after the midway mark of the period. Captain Tom Kostopoulos forcing the turnover but Carter Rowney failed to find the perfect pass during the odd man rush that would have led to a certain goal.
Smith was certainly snake-bitten during this game and was robbed by Jarry again, who made an incredible glove save to deny him after a nice feed from Rychel.
Toronto’s momentum was halted by a ridiculous penalty from Milan Michalek, who decided to close his hand on the puck during a harmless looking play in the neutral zone.
The Marlies have score one short-handed goal this season and almost doubled that tally on a breakaway from who else, but Kasperi Kapanen. His effort was turned aside and the closest WBS would come was through Jean-Sebastien Dea. Bibeau was equal to the high shot from the Pens centre man and Toronto were able to kill the penalty.
The final four minutes of the opening frame were dominated by the Marlies and they deservedly doubled their lead.
Smith and Johnsson with an excellent fore-check and it was the later who came away with the puck, dishing a perfect pass to Rychel, who was alone at the top of the crease. With confidence now sky high, the former Blue Jackets forward made no mistake
It could have been an even bigger advantage heading into the intermission without more brilliance from Jarry, who kept his team in the game with important late saves.
Toronto began the second period with the same verve but a mistake almost gave the home team a foothold three minutes in.
Viktor Loov turned the puck over, enabling a 2 on 1 break for WBS.
The league’s leading rookie scorer Jake Guentzel was presented with the gilt edge chance in front of net but Antoine Bibeau showed great reflexes turn the effort away from danger.
The Marlies responded to that ten-bell save from their net minder to extend the lead with 4:30 on the clock.
A long range shot from Loov made it’s way through traffic and provided a rebound to the right of Jarry.
Frederick Gauthier won the battle in front and scooped the puck into the empty cage to make it 3-0.
WBS would only fire five shots on net during the second period but Bibeau certainly had to make some saves of note. Kevin Porter was afforded some time to measure a shot from the hash marks but the Quebec native was equal to the shot and more importantly clung on to allay any second opportunities for the hosts.
On a Toronto power play, Josh Archibald was sent in alone on a breakaway for the Pens.
With 42 minutes still left to play, it was a huge moment in the game and once again Bibeau came up with the big save when his team needed it most.
Jarry was still trying to keep the home side’s hopes alive and denied Josh Leivo after more excellent work from Rychel.
Every Toronto line was firing at full cylinders at this point and there was no let-up for the hosts who were in need of a spark to get them going and give the fans something to cheer about.
The Marlies chances were numerous as Johnsson, Michalek, Leivo, Lindberg, Andrew Nielsen and Brooks Laich were all turned aside by the impressive Jarry, who must have been feeling the strain of wave after wave of Toronto pressure.
Gauthier’s confidence was high and he almost doubled his account after leading a rush through the neutral zone. He dropped the puck of to Justin Holl who ended as the right winger on the play before finding Gauthier waiting at the far post. Sadly for centre, his backhand effort was smothered at the second attempt by Jarry.
Rychel looked likely to grab himself a hat-trick and probably would have done but for more brilliance from young Jarry.
After being denied at even strength on a feed from Smith, a backhand effort on the following power play was also smothered. Leivo would also be frustrated on the following play before Johnsson ended up in the box.
A shortened man advantage for the home team would prove fruitless as Toronto held onto their three goal advantage heading into the final twenty minutes.
The game was almost done as a contest during the opening sparring of the third period.
From a broken play, Leipsic’s hard slapshot produced a huge rebound that almost fell into the path of William Wrenn. The defenseman would have had an open net to fire into with a tad more luck on that occasion.
As expected, there was a huge pushback from WBS though Toronto didn’t help themselves by failing to clear the zone on four occasions, inviting unwanted pressure.
The calm presence was Bibeau, who made the save and held onto the puck to give him team-mates a breather and a chance to reset.
Upon the restart, Byron Froese would be taken down behind the Pens net and with no call made, the Pens almost went down the ice and scored. Bibeau had to come rushing from his net to deny a partial breakaway but in doing so presented possession to Guentzel. The goaltender made his ground in double quick time and was composed enough to deny the attempt on net from the rookie.
The next threat came from defenseman David Warsofsky, who showed a nice turn of speed and some skills to get around the Marlies defense but Bibeau was equal to his effort fired from the right side.
A power play for Toronto with exactly eight minutes on the clock extinguished the flames of a comeback.
Despite Jarry turning aside Rinat Valiev and Johnsson failing to score from two excellent shots, WBS appeared resigned to their fate with ten minutes remaining.
Gauthier, Michalek and Leivo all could have extended the lead but the bigger question was if Toronto could remain solid defensively and blank WBS the rest of the way.
It was almost a familiar face who broke the shutout bid but Stuart Percy’s tip in front flew wide of the cage.
A pair of penalties inside the final three minutes made the Marlies task easier, especially with an elongated spell of a two man advantage. Leipsic would hit iron before being stonewalled by Jarry, a fate that would also befall Leivo seconds later.
It mattered not as despite not being able to capitalise, Toronto ensured Antoine Bibeau would record his third shutout of the season, in what was the Marlies finest road performance thus far.
Post Game Notes:
Antoine Bibeau may have only had to make 19 saves but once again he came up with the crucial stop when his team needed it most. He has a 6-1-1 record, a 0.939 save percentage and his three shutouts leads all AHL goalies.
Kerby Rychel was rewarded for consistent performances and continually not being afraid to put the puck on net. Unfortunate not to claim a hat-trick but hopefully he can kick on with this brace of goals under his belt.
Frederick Gauthier’s goal was his first this season and he showed great desire and good strength in front of net to break his duck. Was also his first point in five games but team-mates have been thriving around him.
Milan Michalek notched his first Marlies point with an assist on Gauthier’s goal. By far his best performance thus far in what was a good showing from his line including Brooks Laich and Colin Greening.
Kasperi Kapanen recorded his sixth assist of the season but way out ahead in that category is Brendan Leipsic, who recorded a helper on the same goal for his 16th.
Toronto’s victory ensures they are now tied with Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins for the Eastern Conference lead.