TORONTO – Joey MacDonald hadn’t had a win in two months, but he found his game against the Peoria Rivermen.
MacDonald made 26 saves as the Toronto Marlies downed the visiting Rivermen 3-2 in American Hockey League action Wednesday night.
“We needed to get a win and Joey MacDonald played a great game for us tonight,” said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins. “He made some massive saves late in the third to preserve the victory. Give Joey credit, when they had an A-1 scoring chance, he was there to make the stop.”
MacDonald was helped on the offensive end by a pair of rookie Marlies forwards and a rookie defenceman as Toronto snapped a four-game losing streak – and a skid of seven losses in eight games – to improve to 14-15-5.
“It’s been a long time between wins,” MacDonald said. “We’ve had a tough stretch with a lot of injuries. . . It’s been a long while since we played a complete game like this one tonight. The forwards came back and helped out, the defence played a lot better and everyone played a key role.”
Marlies linemates Greg Scott and Ben Gordon had a goal and an assist apiece, while blue-liner Juraj Mikus scored the game-winner early in the third period for Toronto in front of 3,202 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
“Someone has to step up,” said MacDonald, noting that Marlies regulars Christian Hanson, Viktor Stalberg, Alex Foster and captain Ben Ondrus were either injured or up with the parent Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We needed to get some offence from different guys, and we did.”
Julian Talbot and Adam Cracknell replied for the Rivermen, who lost for the first time in three games to fall to 19-12-3.
Peoria goaltender Hannu Toivonen stopped 27-of-30 shots, but was upstaged by MacDonald’s strong play at the other end.
MacDonald, who won his first two starts of the season before dropping seven consecutive decisions, recorded his previous win in a 3-0 shutout of Adirondack on Oct. 30. The native of Pictou, N.S., also has had a couple of stints with the Maple Leafs this season.
“It’s tough to go back and forth,” MacDonald said. “You get used to playing with one team for a couple weeks, or three or four weeks, and then suddenly you’re called up or sent back down. But there’s great guys in the Leafs’ dressing room just like there’s great guys here. You just have to make the best of the situation, wherever you are.”
The Marlies led 2-0 after an opportunistic first period and, after a scoreless middle frame, skated into the final 20 minutes with a two-goal advantage.
Scott opened the scoring at 6:08 of the first period with Toronto on the first power play of the game. Gordon, from behind the net, centred the puck in front to Scott, who one-timed a snapshot past Toivonen’s glove to give the Marlies a 1-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later, Gordon made it 2-0 for Toronto when he accepted a pass from Scott and snapped a high wrist shot from the left faceoff dot past the Peoria goaltender.
Gordon was playing just his third game with Toronto after being called up from the Reading Royals of the ECHL. He scored his first career AHL goal against Hamilton on Monday. Scott, meanwhile, is in his debut AHL season after four years with the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League.
“It feels great to get a goal and some points in a win,” Gordon said. “I’m just excited to be here and to be able to contribute.”
Mikus made it 3-0 for Toronto at 2:49 of the third period when his dump-in took a crazy bounce off the glass and ended up in the net as Toivonen had left the crease to play the puck.
“We got a lucky bounce on what turned out to be the game-winning goal,” MacDonald said. “That’s the way it happens sometimes.”
With Marlies defenceman Brennan Evans in the penalty box for delay of game, Talbot put Peoria on the board when he deflected Jonas Junland’s point shot past MacDonald at 12:46 of the third.
Cracknell made it 3-2 at 18:38 of the third when he wristed a shot from the slot past a screened MacDonald, but the Marlies netminder made a couple of game-saving stops in the dying seconds to preserve the victory.
“They got one on the power play and then one at the end,” MacDonald said. “They were throwing everything at the net in the final minute, but I was able to close the door.”
Toronto was 2-for-5 on the power play, while Peoria went 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
The Marlies host the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday before embarking on a season-high eight game road trip, while Peoria travels to Chicago to face the Wolves on Thursday.