THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — Jake Gardiner made sure the Toronto Marlies got back on track.
The slick defenceman had a goal and two assists Sunday as Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory over the St. John’s IceCaps in the American Hockey League.
The Marlies, who had lost five of their previous six games, scored five times in the second period and then held on for the win as the IceCaps responded with three unanswered goals in the third, including two in the final 70 seconds.
"Right now I don’t care how we get the points," said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins. "I don’t care if it’s pretty, if it’s ugly, if we have to dress it up like a pig and throw some lipstick on it. That’s fine, we wanted the two points and we got them."
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, five different players had goals for Toronto in the second period as Kenny Ryan, Will Acton, Gardiner, Jerry D’Amigo and Carter Ashton found the back of the net. Ryan Hamilton and Dylan Yeo added two assists apiece as the Marlies improved to 27-18-6 in front of 5,604 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
"A lot of those goals came from guys who we count on to be physical and play more checking roles," Eakins said. "It was great to see those guys get rewarded. They played big games for us today and when those guys score, it really ignites your bench."
The Marlies scored three times in a five-minute span midway through the second and added two more goals late in the period.
"We needed a win," Gardiner said. "We haven’t been winning lately and you could kind of feel it in the dressing room. Guys want to win and we know we’re capable of it, it’s just a matter of executing and we did that today."
Kael Mouillierat, Ben Maxwell, Patrice Cormier and Spencer Machacek replied for the IceCaps, who have lost seven of their past nine games to fall to 23-29-3. Mouillierat added two assists for a three-point game while Dean Arsene chipped in with two assists of his own.
"We played yesterday and St. John’s has been sitting around, they’ve been in Toronto for two or three days practising," Eakins said. "They were fresh, and we just started losing guys off our bench (in the third period). Carter Ashton couldn’t go anymore, Will Acton couldn’t go anymore, Tim Connolly left … we were getting real low on bodies and having played the day before, that doesn’t mesh very well."
Toronto goalie Mark Owuya stopped 36-of-40 shots while St. John’s netminder Mark Dekanich made 17 saves.
The game was tied 0-0 after the first period but the Marlies jumped out to a 5-1 advantage through 40 minutes.
"Our first period was a little slow, we weren’t very smart in the defensive zone and Mark made some big saves for us," Gardiner said. "We came out and provided some offence for him in the second period, scored some goals and that felt good. And then we hung in there at the end. A win’s a win. Even if they scored four goals, we still battled hard and we’re happy with the win."
Toronto opened the scoring at 5:23 of the second when the puck bounced to Ryan in the slot and he wired a wrist shot past Dekanich. Acton was credited with a goal off of a scramble in the IceCaps’ crease at 8:08, and minutes after that, Gardiner hammered a slapshot past Dekanich during a 5-on-3 power play at 11:10.
D’Amigo made it 4-0 for Toronto when he broke in alone and deked Dekanich at 16:36. Mouillierat put the IceCaps on the scoreboard with a short-handed effort at 18:42, but Ashton replied less than a minute later when he broke in on a partial breakaway and slipped the puck between Dekanich’s legs at 19:23.
Maxwell’s slapshot from the right point made it 5-2 at 11:49 of the third period, while Cormier scored a power-play goal at 18:59 and Machacek beat Owuya at 19:51 to round out the scoring.
Toronto was 1-for-4 on the power play while St. John’s went 1-for-6.
The IceCaps conclude their six-game road trip with a visit to Hamilton to face the Bulldogs on Tuesday, while the Marlies host the Rochester Americans on Wednesday.