TORONTO – Justin Pogge was riding high after another good performance.
Pogge picked up his first shutout of the season as the Toronto Marlies defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins 2-0 in American Hockey League action on Thursday night. “The last few games I’ve been really confident . . . I’m stopping the puck and I’m feeling pretty good,” Pogge said. Fresh off a 22-save effort in a 2-1 win over the Rochester Americans a night earlier, the Marlies netminder stopped all 31 shots he faced. At the other end, Jimmy Howard made 22 saves on 24 shots.
Jay Harrison and David Ling scored for the Marlies (21-5-0-4) in front of 6,127 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
Toronto was 1-for-5 on the power play, while Grand Rapids went 0-for-7 with the man advantage.
The Marlies took a 1-0 lead halfway through the first period when Harrison’s blast from the point with the man-advantage found mesh behind Griffins (13-16-2-3) netminder Jimmy Howard.
“The boys played well,” Pogge said. “They looked pretty good. They were skating hard. It was a tough game and Grand Rapids is a very good team. We took the puck to them and ended up on the winning side.”
Penalty trouble for Toronto, including a two-man advantage late in the period, gave the Griffins hope that carried into the second period.
“The opposition was forced into turnovers, and it was good decision-making but there are still some things we’ve got to work on,” Marlies coach Greg Gilbert said.
The Griffins outshot Toronto 13-5 in the middle frame, but the effort went for naught as David Ling scored his seventh of the season to give Toronto a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes.
Evan McGrath squandered an opportunity to put Grand Rapids on the board when he hit the goal post during a three-on-one rush with just over five minutes left in the middle frame.
“That was a playoff game right there,” Gilbert said. “Both goalies played well and made big saves.”
It looked like the Griffins would have the opportunity they needed to bust out when Todd Perry and Jaime Sifers were penalized late in the third, but former Marlies winger Brett Engelhardt was called for tripping making it a four-on-three.
Evan McGrath was penalized shortly after to give the Marlies a two-man advantage with a little over three minutes to play.
“We caused some problems for ourselves tonight, but for the most part I am definitely happy about the hockey game,” said Gilbert.
He also praised Pogge’s performance.
“Pogs (Pogge) made the big saves for our team, he played really well,” Gilbert said. “His positioning and rebound control was very good, he played the shots, he was big. He was confident up front challenging shooters.”
When questioned about whether Pogge would be getting more starts in the near future with Scott Clemmensen called up to the Maple Leafs, Gilbert remained cautious.
“We don’t want to wear him out. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow at practice and take it from there.
Added Pogge: “I just assume I’m playing every game. I want to play.”