TORONTO – It may have been Doug Gilmour bobblehead night at the Ricoh Coliseum, but it was the hometown Toronto Marlies who left shaking their heads after a 6-3 loss to the Rockford IceHogs in American Hockey League action Saturday.
Judd Blackwater scored twice and Adam Pineault had three assists to pace the IceHogs, who ended Toronto’s franchise-record seven-game home winning streak.
Evan Brophey, Mike Radja, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Tim Brent also scored for Rockford (26-19-0-4). Tim Stapleton, Bates Battaglia and Jiri Tlusty replied for Toronto (23-18-2-5).
Rockford capitalized on several turnovers and missed defensive assignments by the Marlies in the early going, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. Toronto made the game close in the second period, but could not overcome its slow start.
“I think we were a little too loose and didn’t have the focus to counter their start,” said Boyce. “We managed to get back in the game but ended up shooting ourselves in the foot again.”
Evidence of a chippy affair in which the two teams combined for 88 penalty minutes and 10 fighting majors was seen in the stitches above and below the right eye of Marlies forward Darryl Boyce after the game. Boyce was cut in a fight with Rockford centre Jake Dowell in the first period and clipped by Dowell’s stick in the second.
Marlies coach Greg Gilbert praised his team’s toughness, but, like Boyce, lamented that the squad’s smarts did not match its spirit.
“We weren’t very good from shift one. The energy was there, but I don’t think the mental energy was there,” said Gilbert. “We made some bad puck decisions and turnovers that cost us some shots against, and they buried their chances.”
Toronto defenceman Staffan Kronwall, who took a rare fighting major in the second period for tangling with Rockford’s Pete MacArthur, agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“We showed a lot of courage out there, but we have to be better overall,” said Kronwall.
Kronwall added that the team would not dwell on the loss.
“I think it’s one of those ones we’ve just got to forget about and move on.”
The IceHogs opened the scoring midway through the first on Evan Brophey’s 10th goal of the season. Brophey took a drop pass from Adam Pineault and fired a shot from the high slot that squeaked through the legs of Toronto goaltender Justin Pogge.
Two minutes later, Mike Radja capped off a three-way passing play by banging a low shot past a sliding Pogge.
Shortly afterward, Kris Newbury attempted to spark his teammates by fighting Rockford’s Mike Brennan. But Newbury was assessed an extra two minutes for roughing, and 42 seconds later Blackwater deposited a one-timer behind Pogge for a 3-0 lead.
The Marlies found their offensive touch with the man advantage in the second period. Stapleton sent a high wrist shot over the shoulder of IceHogs netminder Corey Crawford six minutes into the period, and with Toronto still on the power play, Battaglia jammed home a rebound at the 7:12 to close the gap to one goal.
But the IceHogs were able to halt the rally. Hjalmarsson scored on a point shot on a Rockford power play, and Blackwater followed with his second of the game to restore the visitors’ three-goal advantage.
Tlusty notched his ninth goal of the season late in the third period, before Brent ended the scoring with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
The IceHogs scored on two of their four power plays, while Toronto connected twice on seven chances.
Crawford stopped 28 of 31 shots to improve to 14-8-2 on the season. Pogge made 15 saves in falling to 16-14-4.
Notes: Boyce returned to the game after being cut above the eye on a high stick by Dowell. … Marlies defenceman Anton Stralman was scratched after being recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs.