Injuries and illness left Sheldon Keefe with no option but to field a makeshift line-up including seven defensemen.
The omens appeared bleak for Toronto but they found a way to hang in this game against an opponent who once again began stronger
Antoine Bibeau was the star for the home team as Albany completely controlled the opening eleven minutes of the first period.
His best saves came early in the piece, especially when denying Brian Gibbons after just 15 seconds on a partial breakaway down the left side.
For a team struggling with confidence of late, rarely scoring the first goal and often found themselves chasing the game after twenty minutes, a change of fortune was required.
That came with 12:26 on the clock on an innocuous looking play. Kerby Rychel throwing the puck on net and Byron Froese redirected the effort past MacKenzie Blackwood.
The relief was palpable and from that moment on, the Toronto Marlies were a team transformed.
Gifted a power play after a dangerous slew foot from Ben Sexton on Bibeau, Toronto set about Albany with gusto.
The puck was moved with purpose and shots fired on net at every opportunity. There was no let up as excellent puck recovery ensured there was no rest bite for the visitors.
The first stoppage brought a face-off in the offensive zone and after keeping control of possession, Rinat Valiev released a bomb that beat Blackwood all ends up.
After striking iron the day before, Valiev’s exuberant celebration wasn’t surprising, as Toronto found themselves in an unfamiliar position, up by a pair.
In fact the home team could have increased their lead with a fortuitous bounce or two.
Colin Smith wasn’t able to pounce on a rebound after an excellent one-time shot from Tobias Lindberg.
Justin Holl hasn’t shown much of his offensive prowess this season but after leading a rush into the Albany zone, he danced around two players. Blackwood did well to turn Holl’s effort aside and there was no second opportunity for a player wearing white.
The only blemish was an ill-advised interference penalty by captain Andrew Campbell with only a second remaining in the period.
Not only would Toronto kill the penalty carried over into the second period but nearly scored a third once it had elapsed. A 3-on-1 break ensued led by Smith and he chose to shoot, forcing Blackwood into making the save but Andreas Johnsson was unable to get a handle on the rebound.
Travis Dermott had far from his best performance during this game and presented the visitors with an excellent chance after over-skating the puck.
Rod Pelley dished off to Sexton but his one-timer was gloved by Bibeau, who continued to come up big when Toronto required him.
During Saturday’s game, it was the home team who were guilty of taking ill-disciplined penalties but it was the visitors who were doing so in this encounter, as Sexton was once more sent to the box.
The Marlies carried on in the same vein as the previous power play with Johnsson being denied on a second opportunity from Andrew Nielsen’s shot and then Froese rang an effort off the post.
Moments later, on a tee-up from Smith, Froese channelled the frustration of hitting iron the day before and seconds earlier, into a one-time blast from the middle of the ice that Blackwood barely saw before it nestled in his net.
Having kept Albany quiet offensively it was disappointing when the visitors were gift wrapped their first goal of the game.
Dermott the guilty party as he sent a pass from behind the net straight through the slot area to the waiting Jan Mandat. The Devils forward had no problem slotting home his second of the season with Bibeau helpless on this occasion.
It proved only a minor blip as Toronto got themselves back on track immediately and drew a penalty to end the middle frame.
That carried over into the third for the first five minutes and the Marlies so nearly reclaimed their three goal advantage.
Intentional or otherwise, a shot wide of Blackwood’s left post by Johnsson, provided a pair of opportunities for Smith and Rychel with the puck bouncing straight back into the crease area.
A interference penalty taken by Dermott halted the momentum, a moment of rookie inexperience.
However Toronto’s confidence was now spreading to their penalty kill, which didn’t give the visitors a sniff of a chance. In fact it was Johnsson who came closest with a short-handed chance but lost the handle at the crucial moment.
The Devils best chances were coming courtesy of mistakes from the Marlies, who were thankful to Bibeau for two huge saves.
The dangerous Gibbons picked off a pass from Valiev before driving to the crease but was denied by Bibeau’s right pad.
A turnover in the Albany zone enabled the visitors to create an odd man rush but Kevin Rooney would be the next man frustrated by Bibeau.
With five minutes remaining, Toronto were indebted to Bibeau once again.
The Devils out-worked the Marlies along the boards, presenting a great chance in the slot for Blake Coleman.
Toronto’s young goaltender has received much unwarranted criticism about his play since October, but once again came up with the timely save.
The game should have been iced when Eric Faille sent Colin Greening on a breakaway. The veteran forward missed the target however and Albany swiftly went for the extra attacker with Blackwood heading to the bench.
It almost paid immediate dividends as a wicked wrist shot from Sexton clipped the crossbar, but that was as close as the Devils would come.
Froese was denied his hat-trick by hitting the post yet again but Dymtro Timashov was on hand to tuck away the easy rebound.
A much needed victory for the Toronto Marlies, who will head into the Christmas break feeling a little better about themselves.
Post Game Notes:
Antoine Bibeau made 29 saves for what was his 50th regular season AHL victory.
Toronto required their best players to stand up and be counted. Byron Froese did just that, with a goal and two assists for his first three point game of the season.
Rinat Valiev scored his first goal of the season and broke a ten game pointless streak.
An assist for Colin Smith extends his point streak to five games.
Daniel Maggio, Eric Faille, Ty Stanton and William Wrenn came in for Frederick Gauthier, Brooks Laich, Rich Clune and Viktor Loov.
Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen were also still absent.