The Abbotsford Heat started game two red-hot but fizzled by the end as the Toronto Marlies roared back with five unanswered goals to even up its Western Conference semifinal in the AHL playoffs.
Despite being outshot 37-29, the Marlies bounced back in a big way after losing game one and routed the Heat 5-1 in front of 6,244 appreciative fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
Nazem Kadri led the offensive explosion with a goal and two assists while captain Ryan Hamilton, Matt Frattin, Jerry D'Amigo and Korbinian Holzer rounded out the Marlies scoring.
Jon Rheault opened the scoring and was the only one to get a puck past Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens who had a stellar game between the pipes for the Marlies. He made 36 saves for his fourth win of the playoffs.
Marlies Head Coach Dallas Eakins was impressed with how his team finished game one – a physical and punishing type of game – and used the same strategy on Thursday night.
“Well what we did is start with the same system that we started the third period with the last game and it’s one that is taxing on the body, it’s a real hard physical way to play,” said Eakins.
The reason why the game plan worked so well was the fact that the Marlies were able to take the lead. This allowed Toronto to play their style instead of the 1-4-1 trap utilized by Abbotsford that completely slows the game down.
“I think it’s a huge, huge factor against this team is if you’re fortunate enough to get up in the game. I think it takes them out of their comfort zone,” said Eakins.
“We had a bunch of guys have great games. It was a big time team effort and once again our penalty killers did an unbelievable job.”
Toronto fans cheer the Marlies to another victory at Ricoh Coliseum
The game became chippy in the third period with the Marlies taking majority of the penalties and handed the Heat three separate five-on-three opportunities on the night. Fortunately the team was able to kill all of them off instead of letting Abbotsford to get back into the game.
“There were definitely aspects that we did a lot better tonight but we can’t be giving them three chances on the five-on-three,” said Scrivens. “As good as the score looked we could have easily let them back into the game and that’s the point we need to address from this point forward.”
“Obviously you take the win, you get them any way you can, it’s tough to do in the playoffs. We’re happy that we got the win but we got some lessons to learn from it too.”
D’Amigo’s goal was his AHL leading sixth of the playoffs and Eakins continued to praise his “rookie” winger for not only his offensive but defensive contributions.
“Obviously he was a big reason that we were able to put out Rochester and he’s still contributing,” said Eakins.
“And not only there, here’s a guy that is arguably our best penalty killer too. So you’ve got a guy chipping in with goals and he’s keeping the other guy off the scoreboard on the penalty kill. He’s a big part of our group right now.”Icing the Heat
Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton (centre) is congratulated by Philippe Dupuis (right) and Nazem Kadri (left) after scoring in the first period to tie the game at 1-1
The Heat opened the scoring just past the midway mark of the first period from a rush that resulted in the Marlies being unable to hold the zone. D’Amigo jumped up to knock down a high clearance but could not hold the puck in. The play went the other way and Scrivens made a big save on Roman Horak but the rebound went to his left where Rheault knocked it in before Jake Gardiner could check him.
The Heat continued to press but Scrivens made big saves to prevent the second goal and his team from digging itself into a big hole.
Toronto evened the score on the power play with less than five minutes left. Hamilton at the side of the net took a pass from Kadri before making a nice move out front to spin around and tucked the puck past Danny Taylor.
With just over two minutes left D'Amigo went in on a breakaway streaking in from the left side but Heat netminder Danny Taylor turned the shot away with his right pad.
With only 24 seconds left, Frattin squeezed past a check along the right boards to enter the Heat zone and then found ample space breaking in. He then fired a bullet past Taylor to give the Marlies a 2-1 lead.
The Marlies carried over its momentum from the first period to score two quick goals early in the second period. The first came when Holzer brought the puck over the blue line and then unleashed a hard shot on goal. Taylor made the save and let out a big rebound that D'Amigo pounced on while using his speed to drive hard to the net.
Heat goalie Danny Taylor kicks out his leg to stop Marlies winger Will Acton on penalty shot with 1:20 left in the third period
Then 1:53 later Mike Zigomanis along the boards passed the puck back to the point where Holzer one-timed a shot that beat Taylor just inside the far post.
With the score 4-1 the Heat's Paul Byron had a chance to close the gap when he broke away one-on-one against Scrivens but the Marlies goalie squeezed the pads to make another big stop.
While on the power play Abbotsford made a bold move by pulling Taylor for an extra attacker with less than 10 minutes left in attempt to close the gap on Toronto. But it backfired when Kadri picked up the puck in the neutral zone as the penalty expired and shot it into the empty net to ice the game with 8:30 left.
The first star of the game was Holzer who was effective in shutting down the Heat’s top players and also chipped in offensively with a goal and an assist.
“It’s always nice if you get points and to help the team,” said Holzer. “That’s what we’re all focused on and what I’m focused on. It’s nice for me as a defensive defenceman to get points and help the team to win games but my main goal is keeping the puck out of my own net.”
The series now shifts to the west coast as games three, four and five will be played in Abbotsford and if necessary will return to Toronto for games six and seven. Game three will take place on Saturday with opening faceoff scheduled for 10 p.m. ET.
Aman Dhanoa is a Toronto sports beat reporter covering games live and bringing Digital Journal insights from within the locker room.This article was originally published on Oye! Times