TORONTO – In a game that featured lots of spirit on both sides, the Toronto Marlies did all the scoring and James Reimer made all the saves.
The Marlies earned a 2-0 victory over the Manitoba Moose in American Hockey League action Saturday afternoon.
Reimer stopped 31 shots to earn the first shutout of his AHL career. His best work came midway through the third period when, with Manitoba trying to cut into the Marlies’ lead, Toronto provided the Moose with a golden chance to get back in the game by taking consecutive minor penalties.
“When you take back-to-back penalties like that, your (penalty-killers) start getting tired and automatically they’re going to start getting a few extra chances off of that, and James was our best penalty-killer,” said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins.
The 21-year-old puck stopper said he was just doing exactly what he was supposed to in that shorthanded scenario.
“They always say your goalie has to be your best penalty-killer, but I just made the saves I had to and the boys played well,” Reimer said. “They fought hard, they blocked shots; (Manitoba) could have had a lot more chances than they did, so full credit to them.”
Viktor Stalberg and Kyle Calder provided Toronto with all the offence it would need with two first-period goals in front of 6,435 spectators at the Ricoh Coliseum.
Calder’s goal extended his point streak to seven games, the longest run of any Marlies player this season.
The Marlies (23-26-10) have now won three straight contests and Reimer commented on his team’s improved play as it tries to claw back into the North Division playoff picture.
“All our guys are dialled into the game plan and they’re just doing everything they can to win,” he said. “Today guys were laying down to block shots or they were taking passes away backdoor. They played a heck of a game.”
Tempers flared in the second period, likely an outgrowth of the fact the two division rivals have faced each other four times in the last eight days, including the Marlies’ 4-3 win last Wednesday in Toronto. In addition to several hard bodychecks, the middle stanza featured a number of post-whistle scrums and two fights.
Reimer, a Winnipeg native and AHL rookie, said he’s having no trouble working up some ill will toward his hometown team.
“I know personally, I’m starting to dislike them more and more every time I play them and that’s probably a good thing,” he said of the Moose. “It’s definitely a good rivalry, it’s kind of bitter and it makes for a good hockey game.”
Stalberg got the ball rolling for the Marlies when he found a loose puck during a goalmouth scramble and deposited it past Moose goalie Daren Machesney 4:50 into the game.
Toronto’s second marker came on a power play thanks to some determined work by Calder. With Manitoba (28-25-6) defenceman Mario Bliznak yanking on his waist with a firm hook, Calder fought off the foul, pivoted to the side of the crease and slipped the puck into the net.
Bliznak was whistled for hooking and since Moose left winger Pierre-Cedric Labrie was already in the penalty box when Calder scored, Bliznak was forced to sit for his infraction.
The Moose began to carry the play more midway through the contest, but their inability to cash in with the man advantage in the final frame dramatically undermined their chances to win.
The victory pulled the Marlies to within four points of a playoff spot, pending the result of Saturday’s night games. Overall, Eakins was very happy with what he saw from his club against Manitoba and over the past few contests.
“I thought we came out with a great first period and kind of set the table for the pace of how we were going to play,” he said. “And once again, we never came off it.”
Notes: The Marlies are 15-0-4 when leading after two periods this season. … Moose left winger Michael Grabner had his five-game goal streak stopped. … Manitoba now heads to Texas to close out a seven-game road trip with two games against the San Antonio Rampage and one versus the Houston Aeros.