TORONTO - The Toronto Marlies were bruised but unbroken Sunday afternoon, taking advantage of a porous Manitoba Moose defence to win 4-1.
The Moose threw big hits early and often, but were done in by quick offensive strikes by the home side, who beat the division leaders for the second day in a row.
"That's the way Manitoba plays," said Toronto coach Greg Gilbert of the physical contest. "They're a big, strong club, but I thought we were pretty physical too. We battled. It was a war again tonight, just as it was yesterday."
Goaltender Justin Pogge, in his first game back from an NHL stint with the Maple Leafs, stopped 28 shots for the win. Manitoba netminder Julien Ellis took the loss in his first start of the season and was largely done in by rebounds.
"We try to come in to every game like that, putting pucks on net, looking for rebounds," said Toronto centre Max Taylor, who had two points on the night.
"The coaches told us what to expect and I think we played the x's and o's pretty well."
Toronto opened the scoring just over two minutes in thanks to a Manitoba turnover at the blue-line. Taylor broke in on Ellis and put two shots on the goaltender before right-winger Brent Aubin followed up to bury the rebound.
Manitoba tied the game late in the first when right-winger Michel Ouellet converted a picture-perfect tip-in off a point shot from defenceman Shaun Heshka on the Moose's second power play of the period.
But Alex Foster put the Marlies back on top for good early in the second. The young centre shook off a stiff hit from Moose defenceman Mark Fistric before popping in a one-timer off a slick behind-the-net pass from veteran winger Mark Bell.
Defenceman Staffan Kronwall gave the Marlies some breathing room right off the drop in the third. Skating 4-on-4, the Swedish blue-liner swooped in on Ellis and wristed the puck under the goalie's blocker-side arm.
"Kronny's been playing outstanding for us," Gilbert said. "He's been a real leader out there."
Taylor iced it for Toronto on the power play, collecting a Tim Stapleton point shot and putting it top corner on Ellis, who was low in the net.
Pogge had to be sharp early, kicking out his left pad to stop centre Dirk Southern in tight. Moose sniper Jason Krog also had several plum opportunities, even ringing a hot shot off the crossbar in the second period.
Ellis' best stop came midway through the third period, stoning Bates Battaglia as the Marlie streaked in on a short-handed breakaway.
Tempers flared as the game wound down after a big Kronwall hit incited the Moose and a melee erupted. Manitoba's Zach FitzGerald came out of the scrap with a double-minor and a game misconduct for abuse of an official.
Notes: A ceremonial puck drop featured children's characters Dora the Explorer and Diego. . . . Kronwall, Taylor and Battaglia all had two points each for the Marlies.