TORONTO - Centre Colin Fraser scored twice, including the game-winner in the third period, and goaltender Corey Crawford made 36 saves as the visiting Rockford IceHogs beat the Toronto Marlies 5-3 in American Hockey League action on Sunday night.
"We competed in the last two periods, but we were on our heels early and they came at us hard," said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert, who saw Rockford jump out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.
"But we rebounded and took the game to them and gave ourselves a chance to win ... Unfortunately, it didn't happen."
Fraser and Martin St-Pierre scored for the IceHogs 46 seconds apart in the first period - Fraser also collected the game-winner at 5:15 of the final frame - and Jack Skille and Kris Versteeg added singles in front of 5,370 fans at Ricoh Coliseum. Skille had a helper for a two-point game, while right winger Michael Blunden picked up two assists.
"They came out hard and got some breaks early and that's what you get for hard work," Gilbert said.
Kris Newbury, Jeremy Williams and Colin Murphy replied for the Marlies, who dropped their second straight game in regulation time after opening the season with 11 wins and two shootout losses.
"Good things come to an end, and we've got to get back to basics," Gilbert said.
Rockford improved to 10-4-3 on the season while Toronto fell to 11-2-2. It was Toronto's first game back at home - and third contest in three days - after a seven-game road trip in which Toronto went 5-1-1.
"We did have a good start (to the season), but that's all it is, a good start," Gilbert said. "Now we've got to get focused and try to get another one going. It's just day-to-day habits and details ... In the last few days, you could see our attention to detail start to slip a little bit."
While Crawford was called upon to make several key saves, Marlies goalie Scott Clemmensen stopped 22 of 27 shots. Clemmensen suffered his first loss of 2007-08 after starting the season 8-0-0.
"Obviously, I was happy to start 8-0, but you go game by game and after the game's over you move on to the next one," Clemmensen said. "I just wanted to win the game we were playing tonight, and that's how you get to eight in a row. Now I've lost one in a row and I've got to get back on the winning track."
Rockford was 1-for-9 on the power play, while Toronto went 1-for-9 with the man advantage.
The IceHogs led 2-0 after the first period and 3-1 through 40 minutes.
"I thought we played well," Clemmensen said. "I don't think I put my best effort in, (there were) some funny bounces out there and a couple goals I'd like to have back, but I thought we played well all in all."
Fraser opened the scoring for Rockford when he tucked a rebound past Clemmensen at 9:08 of the first period.
Just 46 seconds later, St-Pierre made it 2-0 when he fooled Clemmensen from the right faceoff circle with a spin-o-rama shot while he was falling to the ice.
Newbury pulled Toronto to within a goal when his one-timer from the side of the net, on a pass from David Ling, beat Crawford at 9:38 of the second period. Skille put Rockford up 3-1 when he snapped a wrist shot past Clemmensen's glove for a power play marker at 15:59.
Williams made it 3-2 with a power play goal at 2:07 of the third period, and Murphy tied it up at 3-3 83 seconds later when his slasphot knuckled past Crawford at 3:30.
Less than two minutes later, Fraser regained the lead for Rockford - for good - with his second goal of the game at 5:15. Clemmensen got caught playing the puck behind the net and couldn't get back in his crease in time, giving Fraser an easy tap-in.
"It was bad timing by me to misplay the puck behind the goal," Clemmensen said. "It was a little demoralizing at that point after we worked so hard to tie it up. I was pretty disappointed in myself for misplaying it there."
Walser had a chance to draw the Marlies even midway through the final frame when the Marlies defenceman pinched into the slot and one-timed a shot on goal, but Crawford slid across to make the save. The IceHogs goalie also stopped Murphy on a breakaway with around five minutes remaining in the game.
Shortly after Murphy's chance, Versteeg clinched the game for Rockford when he redirected a centering pass past Clemmensen at 15:05.
"It was our first (set of) three games in three days (this season), we got in at 4:30 last night and had to play at 4 p.m. today," Clemmensen said. "That's the reality of playing in the AHL. Being a professional, that's what you have to do ... You can't make excuses, you have to play through it."
The Marlies host the Lake Erie Monsters on Wednesday.
The Monsters handed Toronto its first loss in regulation time on Friday night, a 5-3 decision at Lake Erie.