TORONTO - The Toronto Marlies learned the hard way that sloppy play simply doesn't fly in the spring.
The Marlies committed far too many turnovers and the San Antonio Rampage took advantage by downing Toronto 6-3 in Game 2 of their best-of-seven North Division semifinal. The series is now knotted 1-1 as the teams head to Texas for Game 3 on Monday night.
Toronto coach Greg Gilbert felt his team turned in a sub-par effort on this night.
"We were sloppy in just about every area of the game," he said.
"They came out, they challenged us physically and we didn't respond. They're a fast team and they play physical and you have to rise to the challenge and do the same. That's the way we played all year, get pucks deep, get on the body and tonight we played pretty much a soft game."
Captain Ben Ondrus, who scored for the Marlies along with Jay Harrison and Bates Battaglia, kept his analysis simple and accurate.
"We can't expect to pull a win out when we don't execute our game plan," he said.
Rookie Chad Kolarik notched a hat trick for San Antonio, while Joey Tenute added a pair to key the Rampage offence.
San Antonio seemed to get a lift by replacing Game 1 starter Al Montoya with Josh Tordjman in goal for Game 2. Conversely, Toronto starter Scott Clemmensen was chased from the net and replaced by Justin Pogge before the game was half over.
Gilbert said getting Clemmensen out of the game was more about the team's play than the goalie's.
"The reason I actually pulled Scott was because he was getting shelled, they were all over us from minute one almost," the coach said.
When talk turned to who would start Game 3, Clemmensen and Gilbert seemed to have diverging opinions. The veteran goalie expects Pogge will get the call, but Gilbert said that might not be the case.
"I haven't made that decision yet," Gilbert said. "Chances are Scott will be going back in.
If he does, the move will come as a surprise to Clemmensen.
"If the roles were reversed, I would have expected to start Game 3, so I'm expecting (Pogge) to start," Clemmensen said.
Toronto feel behind 1-0 in the first period, Toronto essentially self-destructed to start the second frame.
After San Antonio's Chris Durno thumped the Marlies' Chris Harrington in a fight before the puck was even dropped to start the period, the Rampage tallied three goals in just 3:12.
Tenute got the ball rolling when his centring pass bounced off Toronto defenceman Jamie Sifers and past Clemmensen just 2:28 into the period.
Kolarik then banged home a rebound during a San Antonio power play before a Toronto giveaway led to the fourth Rampage goal. That came when Michel Leveille made a soft pass up the middle in his own zone that was easily picked off by Tenute, who wired a shot past Clemmensen.
Pogge replaced Clemmensen at the next stoppage of play and the move seemed to spark the Marlies as Ondrus put Toronto on the board by swatting home a rebound just as a Marlies power play had expired.
But Kolarik answered back just 26 seconds later, sliding a rebound under Pogge for his second of the night.
Harrison beat Tordjman with a shot from just inside the blue-line at 6:12 of the third. Battaglia's shorthanded effort a few minutes later gave the Ricoh Coliseum crowd of 3,367 some hope, but the hole was simply too deep for Toronto to crawl out of.
Kolarik's third of the game killed any potential rally.
Toronto had a great chance to open the scoring early on, but failed to score on an extended 5-on-3 power play. That seemed to swing the game's momentum, as San Antonio started carrying the play in the second half of the first period.
Matt Murley opened the scoring when he took a drop pass from Mike Zigomanis and ripped a wrist shot past a screened Clemmensen from a bad angle. Murley, San Antonio's leading scorer in the regular season, has two goals in the series.
NOTES: Toronto left-winger Robbie Earl and defenceman Derrick Walser both missed the game with undisclosed injuries. ...The next three games will be in San Antonio, beginning Monday. If Game 6 is required, it will be back in Toronto on Sunday, April 27. ... The win was San Antonio's first post-season victory in franchise history, having dropped its previous four playoff games.