TORONTO – The Toronto Marlies finally halted the Penguins’ march.
The Marlies snapped the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ winning streak at nine games, earning a 4-1 win thanks to a short-handed game-winner from Chris Harrington.
Toronto, which has won eight of its last nine games, also got goals from John Mitchell, Bates Battaglia and an empty-netter from captain Ben Ondrus.
Harrington said the game between two very quality teams took on a playoff atmosphere in front of a healthy crowd of 6,733 at Ricoh Coliseum on Friday night.
“Wilkes-Barre is the hottest team in the league and coming into our rink I’m sure they wanted to make a statement against one of the better teams in the league, too,” he said. “It was an intense battle – two good teams, two fast-paced teams that can skate and move the puck. That’s all you can look for in a hockey game and we were fortunate to come out on top tonight.”
Marlies coach Greg Gilbert said there were some lapses, but overall he was happy with his team’s showing.
“We got away from what we do best in the second period a little bit and kind of gave them the momentum with some bad turnovers in key areas,” he said. “Some of the saves (Toronto goalie Justin Pogge) made tonight, it could have been a different story if he didn’t make them.
“It’s a big win for us and it was a hard-fought game. It was a playoff game.”
Pogge (13-2-4) had a shutout streak of 139:27 snapped when Chris Minard (17th goal of the season) banged home a rebound midway through the third period to pull the Penguins within one goal.
But Battaglia (second) busted in all alone late in the game and sealed the deal, stuffing the puck past David Brown (4-2-0) with a beautiful deke before Ondrus deposited his eighth goal of the campaign into an empty net.
With Toronto (24-6-0-4) clinging to a 1-0 lead early in the final frame, the Penguins (21-13-0-1) were handed a prime opportunity to take control of the game when the Marlies’ Darryl Boyce took a five-minute major for high sticking. However, the advantage was quickly negated by a foolish hooking penalty by Wilkes-Barre’s Kurtis McLean.
Then, after McLean’s penalty had expired and the Pens were back on the man advantage, Robbie Earl and Harrington broke in on a 2-on-1. Earl’s shot attempt was partially blocked and the puck slid over to the streaking Harrington, who deposited it past Brown for his third goal of the year.
As a defenceman jumping up in the offensive zone on the penalty kill, Harrington knew he better make good on his scoring chance.
“Ya, I better get it on net, I better do something good because I was the last guy back there,” he said. “It was a good play by (Alex Foster) on the side wall to take a hit and get that puck past the defenceman (in the Marlies’ zone). He doesn’t get credit for it on the scoresheet.
Mitchell (11th) opened the scoring in the first period when he tipped home Jamie Sifer’s point shot while standing on the lip of the crease.
Toronto remains atop the Western Conference’s North Division.
NOTES: The Penguins’ Tim Brent extended his points streak to 10 games with an assistThe Marlies played their second straight game without leading scorer David Ling, who is home visiting his ailing fatherToronto hosts provincial rivals Hamilton on Saturday afternoon and the game is already sold out.