The Toronto Marlies bounced back from a disappointing defeat in Utica, by despatching the Manitoba Moose at Ricoh Coliseum Friday night.
Though at the foot of the Western Conference, the Moose were more than a match at times for the Marlies, who were ultimately flattered by the margin of victory.
The opening three minutes were played at a frantic pace with the best chance falling to the visitors – Brendan Lemieux firing wide from the high slot.
It was during four-on-four action that Toronto finally began to assert some pressure.
Seth Griffith would see his low wrist shot turned aside by Eric Comrie after a fine individual play, before Frank Corrado drew the first penalty of the game.
Byron Froese would be robbed by Comrie and then hit the crossbar before the Marlies finally made the man advantage count.
Dmytro Timashov took possession and instead of shooting from the left circle, looked for a team-mate out front. The intended pass hit the skate of a defenseman in-front, and found the net past a wrong footed Comrie.
The visitors responded to falling behind with some strong play and were the better team at even strength for the following eight minutes of play.
A wraparound attempt from Greening with a little under seven minutes on the clock was just Toronto’s fifth shot of the period but it began a momentum shift back in favour of the home team.
Froese would draw a tripping penalty in the slot area and the Marlies would double their lead at 18:34.
Timashov turned provider as he sent a perfect cross ice feed from the left circle to Trevor Moore on the opposite side of the rink. The puck was barely on the rookie’s stick for a second before it was goal bound, giving Comrie little chance of stopping a shot which found it’s way in via the iron.
A power play for Manitoba carried over into the second period but despite owning possession, Antoine Bibeau would be untested.
The Moose would be luck not to fall further behind 74 seconds into the middle frame after gifting the puck to Froese and space to Griffith in the slot. Comrie would deny the latter and the visitors would set about Toronto with gusto – absolutely dominating the hosts.
Patrice Cormier, Lemieux and JC Lipon would all be turned aside by Bibeau.
Toronto goaltender would then make a wonderful save on the next penalty kill to deny Jimmy Lodge, the Marlies well and truly under siege and unable to clear their lines.
Sheldon Keefe was forced to call a timeout with less than six minutes played but it proved a futile attempt in trying to stem the flow.
Toronto won the face-off to restart play but failed to corral the puck. Manitoba jumped on possession and Quinton Howden would be uncontested as he ripped a shot past Bibeau from the slot.
The Marlies were a little fortunate not to allow a tying goal but worked their way into the period around the midway mark before netting the crucial next goal.
Froese won a possession on the left boards, before handing off to Griffith who wasted no time in sending the puck across to William Wrenn in the right circle.
The defenseman was only playing because of Travis Dermott’s enforced absence, and his rasping shot hit the post and fell kindly into the path of Moore, who only had to ease the puck into the empty net.
Toronto were now on top and came close to adding a fourth on a following power play and then a rush from Frederik Gauthier.
There probably should have been a penalty called on Gauthier’s rush, as he was hauled back at the crucial moment but it mattered not. Upon the restart, Moore would strike the iron before Griffith found Froese between the hash marks and the centreman promptly netted his 24th of the season with an unstoppable one-timer.
Toronto put themselves under pressure to end the middle frame – Brett Findlay guilty of a needless slashing penalty.
Bibeau was once again excellent when called upon. Winnipeg’s exciting prospect Jack Roslovic is Manitoba’s leading scorer and only a fine glove save denied him his tenth goal of the season.
Though the penalty kill stood firm, it was the visitors who were again on top at the beginning of a period.
The Marlies were unable to exit their zone for almost a minute but once doing so, further extended their lead.
The Moose who pulled Comrie in favour of Jamie Phillips, but the newly installed netminder was picking the puck of the net with 71 seconds on the clock.
Somehow Griffith had been left unattended at the side of the net and couldn’t fail to miss after Froese had found him line-mate with a tape-to-tape feed.
The Marlies appeared to sit back and were sloppy in all aspects of their play through the third period.
Giving up consecutive power play opportunities wasn’t helping Toronto’s cause and Manitoba made them pay on the second of those.
Chase De Leo’s effort taking a deflection off the back of Andrew Campbell, giving Bibeau little chance to make the save.
There was still ten minutes to play and the Moose were flying around the Marlies zone in pursuit of a third goal. A little too aggressive in the battle for the puck, a penalty relieved the pressure for Toronto, though they never looked like scoring with the extra man.
Despite an excellent attitude and battling effort, any thoughts of a comeback for Manitoba were extinguished as the final minutes wound down.
Bibeau certainly didn’t deserve a third goal against and with 45 seconds remaining, robbed Scott Glennie with a tremendous glove save.
A Toronto victory indebted to their highly effective power play but also a fine performance from Bibeau, who turned aside 27 shots through the last forty minutes of play.
Post Game Notes:
A 25th victory of the season for Toronto, with nine of those attained in the last twelve games.
The Marlies went two for four on the power play, taking their season total to 56 with the man advantage. That’s good for second best in the league, only behind the Grand Rapids Griffins who have scored sixty.
Byron Froese is now the AHL’s leading goal scorer with 24 to his name. He also notched his 100th career AHL point in the process. Of his 101 AHL career points, 49 are goals.
After going two games without a point, Seth Griffith bounced back with a goal and two assists.
Trevor Moore continues to flourish on the top line – two goals and an assist during this game.
Five multi-point hauls in his last thirteen games, which includes six goals.
Antoine Bibeau thrived under the heavy workload of 37 shots, recording his best save percentage since December 18 and this was undoubtedly his best performance of 2017. The Quebec native has won all three starts against Manitoba this season.
Two assists for Frank Corrado and the defenseman is currently riding a five game points streak.
Travis Dermott was absent through nothing more sinister than illness.