TORONTO – After being shutout by Hamilton earlier in the week, the Toronto Marlies entered Friday night’s game looking to recharge their offence.
The Marlies did just that, scoring four third-period goals on the way to a 6-1 victory over the visiting Iowa Chops in AHL action. Bates Battaglia paced the Marlies with two goals and an assist, while Mark Bell, Darryl Boyce, Alex Foster and Jiri Tlusty added singles.
Drew Miller scored the only goal for the Chops.
Toronto’s attack featured a combination of skill, speed and determination, with several Marlies goals resulting from crisp puck movement and players charging hard to the Iowa net.
Battaglia credited his teammates for their playmaking abilities, but also suggested that a simple game plan was the foundation for the fireworks.
“I don’t think the guys were going overboard, but when plays were there to be made, guys made them,” said Battaglia. “That’s the biggest thing, not going outside what we normally do.”
Marlies coach Greg Gilbert said the outburst was a signal that his team had bought into his offensive strategy.
“We want to be patient and we want to hang onto pucks and create offence and tire out the defending team,” he said. “It’s good to see that guys are starting to grasp it.”
Toronto opened the scoring less than seven minutes into the first period, with Battaglia finishing off a pretty three-way passing play. Robbie Earl gained the blue-line and dished off to Tim Stapleton, who threaded a cross-ice pass to a driving Battaglia for a tap-in goal.
Battaglia’s marker came with a price, as the Marlies forward was pushed into Chops goaltender David LeNeveu, knocking the net ajar.
“That’s something (Gilbert) has been trying to get us to do, driving the net like that. I saw the opportunity and just went for it,” said Battaglia.
“That’s a classic example of why you go to the tough areas,” said Gilbert of Battaglia’s effort. “It was good to see him put it in and get us started.”
Toronto was able to add to its lead near the midway point of the second period, thanks to another skillful passing display. Bell capped off a 2-on-1 break by redirecting Foster’s pass over a sliding LeNeveu for a 2-0 edge.
Iowa cut the deficit in half with a short-handed goal late in the middle period. After stealing the puck at his own blue-line, Miller outraced Toronto defenceman Staffan Kronwall and broke in alone on Justin Pogge, firing a low shot past the Marlies netminder. The goal was Miller’s team-leading 16th of the season.
Toronto restored its two-goal advantage just 41 seconds into the third period as Boyce accepted a breakaway pass from Kronwall and beat LeNeveu between the legs on a backhand deke.
The Marlies got more insurance less than three minutes later when Foster banged in a Kyle Rogers rebound. The Chops protested that LeNeveu had frozen the puck after denying Rogers on a breakaway, but the goal stood.
Battaglia, with his second of the game, and Tlusty rounded out the scoring for Toronto.
Kris Newbury returned to the Toronto lineup after missing 12 games with a shoulder injury. He brought a nasty edge, racking up six penalty minutes, delivering several big hits and recording one assist. It was a one-game cameo appearance for Newbury, who will be lost to the Marlies once again after being recalled by the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs following the game.
The Marlies went 1-3 on the power play, while the Chops were 0-6 with the man advantage.
Pogge made 28 saves in the Toronto net. LeNeveu stopped 28 shots for Iowa.
Toronto hosts the Philadelphia Phantoms on Saturday.
Notes: Jiri Tlusty suited up for the Marlies 24 hours after appearing in for the Maple Leafs in a 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday nightA moment of silence was observed before the game in honour of Whitby Dunlops player Don Sanderson, who passed away early Friday morning, three weeks after he injured his head in a fight in Ontario’s Senior A league.