TORONTO - The wins followed the Toronto Marlies home.
Justin Pogge stopped 33 shots for the Marlies in a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in AHL action Saturday afternoon at the Ricoh Coliseum.
The victory extended Toronto's winning streak to three games following a stretch in which it lost five straight. A crowd of 5,306 fans came out to support the Marlies in their first home game after five consecutive road dates.
"I thought it was a great game, I thought it was a playoff game to be quite honest with you," said Toronto coach Greg Gilbert following his team's triumph.
"The tempo was high, it was end to end, it was good defence at both ends, good goaltending and good strategy. It was a heck of a game."
The Marlies' Mark Bell scored in the second period while Jiri Tlusty and Tim Stapleton, who had a two-point game, added third-period markers.
Luca Caputi answered for Wilkes-Barre (10-7-1) just a couple minutes after Stapleton made it 2-0, but Tlusty added his first goal in nine AHL games this year to seal the win for the Marlies (7-7-2).
Strong as Pogge was for the vast majority of the game, he had a letdown with only 19 seconds remaining in the game when he allowed a weak shorthanded goal from outside the blueline on a shot by Ben Lovejoy.
That play stood in stark contrast to the kind of quality goaltending the Marlies have been receiving lately.
Thanks in large part to a shutout by backup Adam Munro on Friday night in Binghamton, Pogge and Munro combined to blank opposing teams for 116 minutes 23 seconds of play. Caputi ended the streak with his power-play goal on a nice wraparound play 6:57 into the third.
Bell believes a healthy competition between the two goalies is beneficial for the club.
"I think it starts with Adam," he said. "He played a great game (Friday night), I think he's pushing Justin and I think that's going to help down the road. Really, they're both playing well and we need them to."
They certainly do. Entering Saturday's game the Marlies had scored more total goals than only four teams in the league. Toronto has had a particularly tough time generating offence at full and even strength.
"Up front, we've got to start scoring some more five-on-five goals," Gilbert said. "Our power play has been clicking to a certain extent and that's got to get better, too.
"Five-on-five, not scoring goals is starting to become a concern, but we got a couple (all three) tonight."
After 30 minutes of crisp, tough hockey with the Penguins, the Marlies opened the scoring just past the midway point of the game. The play started when Stapleton won an offensive-zone faceoff cleanly back to Josef Boumedienne. The defenceman slid a quick pass to the high slot, where Bell was waiting to one-time the puck home past Pens goalie David Brown.
The assist extended Boumedienne's point streak to four games.
Stapleton's goal came after he converted a beautiful pass from Boyd Devereaux, who fired the puck from the side boards right to his teammate on the lip of the crease.
Tlusty's insurance marker came when he tipped a Todd Perry point shot home with just over six minutes left.
Pogge was sharp right from the start, making 12 first-period saves. Toronto's best chance of the opening frame came when a point shot from Jamie Sifers glanced off the outside of the goalpost on Brown's stick side.
With three straight wins under their belt, Gilbert said the Marlies finally have some results to show for their hard work.
"We've been playing a lot of good hockey and just hadn't been getting rewarded," he said.
NOTES: Marlies centre Andre Deveaux served the third game of a four-game suspension stemming from a hit he made on Manitoba Moose defenceman Nolan Baumgartner on Nov. 15. ... Penguins left winger Chris Minard leads the AHL with 15 goals.