With five of their next six games on home ice, the Toronto Marlies got off to the best possible start back in front of their own fans on Friday night.
The visiting Binghamton Senators are a struggling outfit, but have given Toronto plenty to think about in three previous meetings this season.
It was essential then that the Marlies got off to a fast start and they certainly did just that, swarming inside the Senators zone, though unable to create anything of note.
In fact it was Binghamton who led 3-1 in shots by the time the first whistle of play occurred after five minutes of play.
Making his season debut, Kasimir Kaskisuo had made a pair of decent stops to turn aside Jack Rodewald and Jason Akeson.
The first power play of the game led to the opening goal.
Marlies fans have witnessed Mike Sislo’s booming one-time slapshot from the left circle, whilst the winger was a member of the Albany Devils. This time he accomplished the feat while wearing blue, beating Matt O’Connor five-hole.
Binghamton were looking to rattle Toronto’s inexperienced goaltender by running him every chance but Kaskisuo remained composed and the Marlies almost made it two on the ensuing power play.
The lead would be doubled with four minutes remaining after excellent work from Seth Griffith. Intercepting an intended outlet pass, Griffith turn and sped back across the blue line before dropping the puck off for Andrew Campbell on his left.
Having struggled to find the net this season until very recently, the Marlies Captain looks far more confident in the offensive zone of late. Making a move around one opponent at the top of the right circle before placing his wrist shot out of the reach of O’Connor.
The home team could easily have led by three heading into the intermission but on their third power play of the period, Sislo hit the crossbar from the same position as he’d scored earlier.
After such domination of the first twenty minutes, Toronto took their foot off the gas and lacked intensity for the majority of the middle frame.
Having faced just five shots in the first period, Kaskisuo would become far busier from this point on.
On the remainder of the power play carried over, Brendan Leipsic blazed over the net from in tight and Binghamton immediately went on the attack.
Mike Blunden led the way as Bingo swarmed around the home team’s net. After crashing the net hard and engaging with Rinat Valiev in a fairly physical encounter, Blunden would drop the gloves with Toronto’s returning defenseman. Valiev handled himself well though how sensible it was to fight on your first game back from injury, I’m not quite sure.
Binghamton’s first power play of the game became the Kasperi Kapanen show for the first minute. The Finnish winger almost scoring on two occasions with some fantastic individual skill.
The penalty kill wasn’t a good effort from the Marlies however, as Max McCormick chipped home unattended from the blue paint.
An early strike was just what the Senators required and it was so nearly a tied game at the seven minute mark. Casey Bailey with the partial breakaway but Kaskisuo came up with the fine save to keep the lead intact.
The teams were now exchanging chances off the rush , with both team’s lacking structure in their play. Justin Holl and Kaskisuo combined to deny an odd man opportunity whilst O’Reilly, Kapanen, Campbell and Findlay went close for Toronto.
Some poor defensive play from the Marlies meant Valiev had to take a hooking penalty to deny Chad Nehring an excellent scoring chance. Phil Varone would spring Blunden clear on the power play but Kaskisuo once more came to his teams rescue.
As the period wound down, finally the Marlies began to find their play from the first period.
Holl was unlucky not to score as his effort his the post and almost went in off O’Connor. With ten seconds remaining, Andreas Johnsson created a chance from another with a piece of individual brilliance but this attempt found the crossbar,
Sheldon Keefe would have sent his team out with a strongly worded message for the third period and it paid dividends early.
The intensity was back and some swift, short passing ended with Holl ripping a shot top shelf for a 3-1 lead. A power play followed the insurance marker but would see Binghamton draw within one.
The Senators penalty killers outworking the Marlies five-forward PP unit and McCormick netted his second of the game.
The pivotal moment came at the midway point of the third period with Toronto on their fourth power play. McCormick on the breakaway with a chance for the hat-trick but Kaskisuo came up big when his team needed him once more.
Toronto duly repaid their goaltender but scoring seconds later. Sislo batting a rebound out of the air and into the empty cage after some excellent battling at the side of the goal from Johnsson and Rychel.
The Marlies rarely looked in danger from this point on and really should have added to their lead. Johnsson created an odd man rush down the left side, finding Sislo alone in front. He was unable to find the target and the hat-trick chance went begging.
Kaskisuo would be called upon to make a couple of decent stops inside the final 100 seconds with Binghamton having gone for the extra attacker, but Toronto held on fairly easily for their third straight success.
Post Game Notes:
Toronto lead the season series with Binghamton 3-1.
The fourth goal of the game was Toronto’s 200th this season.
Kasimir Kaskisuo played his first AHL game of the season and made 28 saves for the victory. He’s certainly given Antoine Bibeau something to think about with Garret Sparks still out injured.
A three point game for Mike Sislo, who is beginning to look as advertised. A player short of confidence on his arrival, now looks something similar to what Toronto witnessed last year.
Cal O’Reilly and Seth Griffith both recorded a pair of assists.
Andrew Campbell has now scored in back to back games for the first time this season.
Heading into Saturday’s schedule, Toronto are level on points with Albany and trail Syracuse by a pair.