After suffering their worst defeat of the season this past Saturday, the Toronto Marlies looked to right that wrong Tuesday evening.
The visiting Rochester Americans had lost four straight heading into this tilt but own a 6-1-0-1 record against Toronto this season.
It was important for the home team to get off to a good start and they did just that by building a huge lead through the opening period.
Toronto were up inside two minutes thanks to the retuning Tobias Lindberg. A stretch pass from Andrew Campbell found Lindberg, who danced between two Amerks defensemen before beating Linus Ullmark blocker side, with an accomplished backhand effort.
There weren’t many shots on goal in the first frame but Toronto were certainly making them count.
The lead would be doubled at the six minute following a spell of sustained of pressure in the Americans zone.
Justin Holl would work his way around Alex Kile and from the heart of the slot, measured his shot past Ullmark.
Fewer than sixty seconds later and the Marlies extended their lead to three on the power play.
Sheldon Keefe continues to persist with the five-forward PP unit and it paid dividends on this occasion.
Andreas Johnsson teeing up Mike Sislo to score backdoor.
Kasimir Kaskisuo had been given the nod over Antoine Bibeau, but he wouldn’t be called into action until the final seven minutes of the period. An odd man rush for the visitors presented Kile with the chance get Rochester on the board but Kaskisuo was equal to the effort.
Almost immediately Toronto responded to that scare but netting for a fourth time.
Kasperi Kapanen with excellent work to keep the puck in the Amerks zone before sending it down low to Brett Findlay. The centreman picked out Seth Griffith with a perfect cross ice pass, but Ullmark performed a wonderful flying save. The rebound fell right back to Griffith however, who had little difficulty in lifting the puck over the goaltender before he could regain position.
Four goals on five shots and Toronto could easily have extended their lead before the intermission.
Holl led a 3-on-1 break but the opportunity would go to waste.
A second power play opportunity with a minute remaining should have seen the Marlies score with a second left on the clock. Cal O’Reilly split the Rochester defense with a seeing eye pass to find Johnsson. The Swedish winger did everything right, had Ullmark down and out but somehow failed to slide the puck into the yawning cage as the buzzer sounded.
The visitors switched goaltenders for the beginning of the second period, John Muse receiving the call to action.
He would have allowed a goal five minutes in but for the quick whistle of the referee.
A rapid shot from Sislo produced a rebound that Johnsson pounced upon to score.
Somehow the referee thought Muse was in full control of the puck and Rochester caught a break.
Toronto’s play from this point on failed to reach the heights of the opening frame – lacking the intensity that Sheldon Keefe would have been asking of his troops.
After facing just four shots through twenty minutes, Kaskisuo would become far busier in the middle frame. He made several key saves, turning aside Kyle Bonis, Nick Baptiste and Justin Vaive
The final five minutes of the period saw the teams exchange power play’s but the best opportunities came while Toronto were down a man. Kapanen’s speed had Rochester floundering and his shot was well saved by Muse, who also did excellently to deny Colin Greening on the rebound.
Tim Kennedy then hit the post for the Americans, who had little in the way of luck through this game.
Despite the lopsided nature of the score line, Rochester kept pressing early in the third period as they looked to put some doubts in the minds of the Marlies players.
Kaskisuo had to be alert inside the five first minutes to deny Bonis who had found himself space down the middle of the ice.
Mat Bodie was the next to test Toronto’s rookie goalie and some nice interplay had set him up to the side of the goal.
The Marlies were certainly clinical if nothing else through this midweek game and scored a fifth at the nine minute mark. A misplay from Rochester at Toronto’s blue line allowed Findlay to jump on possession and offload to Kapanen. It would have been all too easy for the Finnish winger to shoot but a heads up play found Griffith to his right. Having already scored once tonight, Griffith was full of confidence as he cut across the crease and lifted the puck top-shelf from his backhand.
With the destination of the two points in no doubt whatsoever, both teams appeared to go through the motions somewhat.
Toronto nearly scored short-handed through Frederik Gauthier, who showed a burst of speed to beat two Amerks players but wired his shot high of the target.
That would prove the last real action until the last minute of play.
Greening broke up a Rochester play on his own blue line before sending Trevor Moore on a breakaway. The rookie never really had full control when crossing the blue line but regained his composure to score his team’s sixth goal with a nice backhand finish.
Toronto were out-shot 26-10 through the final forty minutes and had to rely on Kaskisuo to bail them out. Sheldon Keefe will not have been happy with their performance overall but he will have been delighted by their clinical finishing in front of goal.
Post Game Notes:
This was Toronto’s 20th home victory of the season.
The Marlies magic points number for making the playoff is 21 with eleven games remaining.
Mike Sislo extended his goal and point streak to three games. Having only scored six times in 54 games for San Antonio, the right winger has already reached that goal total in eight outings for Toronto.
Seth Griffith has recorded five consecutive multi-point games, and stretches his overall point streak to six games.
Kasimir Kaskisuo made 30 saves for a first AHL shutout in just his fourth game. Going back to last year where he played twice at the end of the season, Kaskisuo is yet to lose a game in regulation.
A pair of assists for Kasperi Kapanen, breaking a two game pointless streak. He’s almost back to his very best and was clearly frustrated not to register a goal in this one.
Kerby Rychel was suspended for this game after what transpired Saturday. He’s available for selection as it was just a single game ban.
Cal O’Reilly faced his old team for the first time since his loan move to Toronto.