The Toronto Marlies struggling offense finally came through to see them to a narrow victory over the Manitoba Moose.
Toronto weren’t able to dominate as they did Tuesday evening, taking far too many penalties in the first half of the game, but stuck to their task manfully throughout.
The opening period would see the Moose register more shots through twenty minutes than they managed in the entirety of the previous night’s game.
It was Toronto who created the first opportunity two minutes, as a swift passing movement ended with Andreas Johnsson unable hit the target.
Kevin Czuczman brought the first save from Jhonas Enroth, who had be alert with 4:30 on the clock.
An error from Andrew Nielsen presented the puck to Scott Glennie but Toronto’s goaltender bailed out his rookie team-mate.
Less than a minute later and Toronto struck the opening goal.
Dymtro Timashov had no right to reach an intended pass from Colin Smith, but he showed tenacity to win possession before driving into the offensive zone.
Pulling up at the top of the left circle, Timashov waited before firing past Eric Comrie who appeared to be screened by one of his own defensemen.
Byron Froese almost doubled the lead on the shift following the goal but his one-time effort brought a fine save from Comrie.
The next chance came courtesy of a long outlet pass from Frank Corrado, sending Milan Michalek in on goal. The veteran forward lost the handle as he stretched for full control of the puck and the opportunity passed him by.
Colin Greening was sent to the box with twelve minutes played and it so nearly proved costly.
Chase De Leo found himself with acres of space low in the right circle but Enroth got a piece of his blocker to the far side attempt.
Toronto could count themselves slightly unlucky not to register a short-handed tally on the same penalty kill. Kasperi Kapanen showcasing his electric speed as he skated by every single Manitoba player and looked to have Comrie beaten as he slid a shot around the goaltender.
As he released the effort, a Moose player came crashing into the net, knocking it off it’s moorings. There was no review and no penalty for the infringement much to the dismay of Marlies captain Andrew Campbell who argued the point vigorously.
Back at even strength the home team would tie up proceedings with a breakout move at speed and a pretty give and go to finish. Glennie and De Leo combining with the former finding the twine for the eighth time this season.
The Marlies were then guilty of puck watching down low, allowing Brandon Tanev an excellent chance alone out front that Enroth did well to hang onto. Rinat Valiev was called for high-sticking on the play and with blood drawn, assessed a double minor.
Toronto’s penalty kill remained steadfast through the end of the first period and into the second to ensure the scores remained tied.
A five-home attempt from Johnsson would provide Toronto’s best chance at even strength during the middle frame, which turned into a parade to the penalty box.
Enroth was guilty of tripping before Froese took a hooking penalty to deny a breakaway for the home team, as the penalties overlapped.
Manitoba would draw themselves ahead on the second opportunity with what appeared a set play.
Czuczman fired a shot deliberately wide and the rebound from the end boards came flying back through the blue paint and behind Enroth. Glennie reacted quicker than anyone else to slot home the go-ahead marker.
Toronto would have had themselves a power play but Timashov showed rookie inexperience in taking a penalty seconds after Patrice Cormier had been called, and it was 4-on-4 instead.
The Marlies penalty kill was once again back to work after Greening made his second visit to the box and it was their best effort of the game, completely nullifying the Manitoba power play.
On their first power play with a little over three minutes to play in the second period, Toronto took just 23 seconds to bring themselves level.
Brendan Leipsic received a pass from Kapanen which allowed him to enter the Moose zone with speed. Driving done the middle of the Manitoba defense, Leipsic finished with aplomb, beating Comrie all ends up with a sweet backhand effort.
The relief was palpable from the away bench and the thought of not trailing through two periods of play seemed to drive them on for the remainder of the middle frame.
Michalek should have done better than to fire into the midriff of Comrie after a nice move around his man allowed the forward space in the slot.
The Moose were hemmed in their own zone for the final minute by a rampant Marlies team who smelt blood. Unable to find that killer final pass or shot, Toronto would draw a penalty however, to ensure they began the third on the power play.
The Marlies were a little casual with the extra man to begin the final frame and were fortunate not to allow a short-handed goal as Tanev was once again denied by Enroth.
It proved a timely reminder that this game was still finely balanced and Toronto responded by dominating Manitoba at even strength play up until the midway mark.
The go-ahead goal came just five minutes in, though it was slightly dubious as to whether it should have stood..
Campbell and Nielsen played pitch and catch at the blue line before the former let fly on net.
Tobias Lindberg was crashing the net and tipped the puck past Comrie but also crashed into the goaltender in the process. It was borderline interference but with no review possible in the AHL the goal stood and Toronto caught a well deserved break.
Unable to score on eight power play’s the previous evening, Toronto were to notch their second goal with the man advantage at the eight minute mark.
Nielsen this time with a slapshot from the point and the unattended Kerby Rychel in front tipped the puck home.
Manitoba were gifted a way back into the game as the midway point thanks to Enroth.
The goaltender came out of behind net to clear the puck and never fully got himself back into position.
From the right boards and a bad angle, Scott Kosmachuk threw the puck on net, and beat Enroth at his far post.
It so nearly became worse for Enroth and Toronto a minute later.
A shot from De Leo handcuffed the goaltender, bounced through the blue paint and clipped the outside of the post, with Kosmachuk unable to corral the rebound.
Having soaked up the spell of pressure from the home team, the Marlies began to assert themselves once again and Kapanen drew a fine save from Comrie.
With time winding down, Toronto were denying Manitoba easy zone exits and quickly recovering possession to frustrate the home fans.
With Comrie pulled, the game should have been iced with a minute to play. After a prolonged battle along the end boards, the Marlies won the battle despite being out-manned and Kapanen came away with the puck. Electing to shoot before crossing the red line, the Finnish winger missed the net and brought pressure on his team with an icing.
Toronto would win the resulting face-off but would need to dodge one final bullet with 15 seconds remaining. A low shot from Kosmachuk brought a huge rebound from the right pad of Enroth, who was doubtless relieved the see puck elude Brendan Lemieux following in on the play.
Post Game Notes:
This victory broke a four game losing streak and was the first time Toronto has scored more than two goals since their last win against Albany.
After allowing 18 shots in the opening period, Toronto restricted Manitoba to fifteen in the following forty minutes. The overall shot tally favoured the Marlies 35-33.
Special teams were once again the difference between these two teams. Toronto’s penalty kill was 5/6 while the power play netted twice on three opportunities.
Jhonas Enroth made 30 saves but also countless errors – so nearly costing Toronto victory in the process.
By his own admission, Andrew Nielsen had a poor game Tuesday night. Bar for an early error he was better in this game defensively and recorded his second, three point game of the season.
Dmytro Timashov scored just his fourth goal of the season. Three of those have come in his last nine outings however.
A pair of assists for Kasperi Kapanen takes his seasonal points tally to 30.
He also extends his point streak to six games.
Brendan Leipsic also hit the thirty point mark by scoring his ninth goal of the season.