TORONTO – Jiri Tlusty had the first five-goal game in Marlies history as Toronto took a wild 8-5 win over the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday in the AHL.
Tlusty scored on his first two shifts of the game and had the hat trick before the second period was six minutes old. But the Marlies still needed a game-winner from Josh Engel in the third to hold off Syracuse and earn their fifth-straight win.
Tlusty blasted his fourth goal of the game with less than two minutes to play and added an empty-netter to complete the scoring.
His five goals eclipsed the previous Marlies record of four set by his centre Tim Stapleton just 10 days ago, a fact Tlusty was unaware of.
“No, I didn’t know that but it’s very nice,” grinned Tlusty when informed of his achievement after the game, adding he’d never even had a hat trick at the pro level prior to Wednesday night’s outburst.
The 20-year-old humbly deflected much of the praise for his monster game to linemates Stapleton and Bates Battaglia.
“I was lucky, they just went in,” said Tlusty, noting he benefited from sweet set-ups on three of his goals.
“It doesn’t matter who is scoring the goals, the most important thing is just those two points against Syracuse, they’re right behind us (for fourth place in the North Division).”
The veteran Battaglia was happy to hear his young teammate wasn’t letting all this goal-scoring go to his head.
“That’s good, that’s how it should be,” said Battaglia, who had three assists on the night, including a helper on Engel’s winner.
“He’s finding spots and taking advantage of all the opportunities he’s getting. You don’t see too many guys who can go out and score five goals in any league, so that’s pretty impressive.”
Toronto Coach Greg Gilbert is pleased to see the strut in Tlusty’s stride these days. In all, Tlusty is on an eight-game point streak, popping 11 goals and eight assists for 19 points over that stretch.
“I’m just happy to see him playing with confidence again,” Gilbert said. “He’s playing hard with the puck and he’s shooting the puck. He’s always had a great shot.”
Alex Foster also scored for Toronto, while Ryan Hamilton scored his first goal in nine games with the Marlies since coming over from the Houston Aeros.
Engel added a pair of assists to go with his game-winner, a three-point game in just his fourth contest with the Marlies since coming up from the ECHL.
Stapleton also ran his point streak to eight games with a pair of assists, giving him 10 goals and six assists for 16 points over that timeframe.
Battaglia has a five-game assist streak going with nine helpers over that span.
Kevin Harvey, Craig MacDonald, Dan Smith, Mike York and Kyle Wharton all scored for the Crunch.
Syracuse fell behind by three goals early in the game, but pulled even 2:59 into the third when Wharton’s seemingly harmless shot from the point floated by Marlies goalie Adam Munro to square the affair 5-5.
However, Engel restored his team’s lead for good when his one-timer from the high slot beat Crunch goalie Sebastien Dahm. Dan LaCosta started the game for Syracuse, but was replaced after the Marlies’ fifth goal in the second period.
Tlusty’s first goal opened the scoring when Stapleton, who was standing along the boards just inside the Crunch blue-line, threaded a beautiful feed through a cluster of sticks and skates right to his streaking teammate. Tlusty charged in and beat LaCosta through the legs with a quick, low shot.
Stapleton was a key figure in Tlusty’s next goal as well, this time dropping a backhand pass to the young sniper. Tlusty, standing at the side of the crease, fired a one-timer to the back of the net to make it 2-0.
The 20-year-old completed his hat trick by roofing a pass from Battaglia just under the crossbar, chasing LaCosta from the Crunch net. However, York answered less than three minutes later on a Syracuse power play, making it a one-goal game again.
Gilbert was unhappy with the way his team allowed the Crunch to creep back into a game the Marlies so heavily dominated early on.
“We got real sloppy and you’ve got to give Syracuse credit, they started pressing us,” he said. “We started making too many soft plays, turnovers and they capitalized.
“For a while there, they played like they wanted it more than we did and fortunately we found a way. And we had Jiri in the lineup tonight and we won the game.”
NOTES : Jeremy Williams and Ryan Hollweg did not dress for the Marlies. Gilbert said Williams was sick, but would not offer a reason for Hollweg’s absence. Toronto has scored five or more goals in four of its last five contests. The Marlies are 7-2 on their current 11-game home stand.