ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - With family and friends looking on, Greg Scott put in the finest post-season performance of his American Hockey League career.
Scott scored a natural hat trick in the third period as the Toronto Marlies defeated the Abbotsford Heat 3-1 in AHL playoff action Tuesday.
Scott scored two goals 4:40 seconds apart in the third ? the second on a short-handed breakaway ? and added an empty netter to give Toronto a 3-1 series lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal. Game 5 goes Wednesday at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
"Greg Scott obviously stepped up for us huge," said Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens. "A natural hat trick and two highlight reel goals."
Scott, a Victoria native who scored 21 goals this season, had an extra jump in his step since arriving in Abbotsford Saturday for Game 3.
"I got some family in the stands and that does give me a little boost," Scott said. "It's definitely fun to come out. Last game I had my mom and aunt and this game I had a couple uncles in the stands."
Scott tied the game for the Marlies at 2:31 of the third, rushing the puck up from his own side of centre before firing a wicked wrist shot over Taylor's shoulder.
"There was a lane ? (Mike Zigomanis) and (Ryan Hamilton) kind of parted it for me ??? and I just put my head down, closed my eyes and luckily it went in."
Scott gave the Marlies the lead just under five minutes later with a short-handed effort. He took a breakaway pass from Juraj Mikus and slid the puck under a sprawling Taylor at 7:11.
"This year I wanted a shoot-first mentality," Scott said. "I went into this game???a little overdue. Luckily for me I got a couple breaks. Hopefully I can get some more."
Hugh Jessiman replied for the Heat.
The Abbotsford power play was the difference again Tuesday. Not only did it give up the winning goal short-handed, it was 0-for-5, making it 0-for-21 over the four games of the series. Toronto's penalty kill was best in the AHL most of the season.
"Our PK is an aggressive one," Scott said. "When you play against our PK you have to play a bit of defence because we have some quick guys that want to create opportunities and we did that tonight."
Scrivens, as usual, was the key to the penalty kill and the win. He made 36 saves in all.
"You need blocked shots, you need saves, you need to make life difficult for their skill guys," Scrivens said. "That???s the key right now ??? we're forcing them to make the most difficult play possible."
Danny Taylor returned to the crease for Abbotsford, stopping 14 shots in the losing effort.
"That's a tough one for Taylor," said Scrivens of his goaltending counterpart. "He didn't have a lot of work and then in the third period we got a couple really high quality scoring chances. But he gave their team a chance too."
The Heat opened the scoring just shy of the game's midway mark. After Scrivens misplayed the puck, Jessiman and Adam Estoclet closed in on the Marlies' defenders to force a giveaway up the boards. Ben Walter collected the puck and quickly put a wrist shot on net, and Jessiman deflected it past Scrivens.
After Scott gave the Marlies the lead in the third, it was Scrivens' turn to shine. With four minutes to go in the game Scrivens made a critical save, stopping Jon Rheault on the doorstep to maintain his team???s one-goal lead.
In the final minute, Walter had a slap shot squeeze through Scrivens' pads but it slipped just wide of the post.
"He's a good goalie," Rheault said. "I had plenty of chances tonight that I need to bear down and score for our team and I'm sure there???s plenty of other guys thinking the same thing."
Scott added an empty-netter with 29 seconds remaining after stealing the puck in the neutral zone.
Abbotsford outshot visiting Toronto by a 36-17 margin, giving the Marlies a 4-0 record in the playoffs when their opponent had more shots on goal.
Since winning Game 1 in Toronto, the Heat have scored just one goal in each of their past three games in the series.
Krys Kolanos, the Heat's leading scorer during both the regular season and playoffs, was a healthy scratch. Head coach Troy Ward called it an internal issue that needed to be dealt with.
"(Kolanos) brings a lot of things that's hard to find in other players," Walter said. "We took it as everyone needed to step up a bit and try to fill that void. We???ve got a pretty deep team and we were able to add other guys in there."
Though his offensive ability may have made a difference, Scrivens said that he wasn't even aware of the 30-year-old sniper???s absence until midway through the game.
"I'm kind of oblivious to their lineup," Scrivens said. "I just face each shot as it is. I'm sure everyone else knew it and adjusted the game plan accordingly. But he?????????s a big part of their offence. He?????????s definitely the straw that stirs their drinks. I don't anticipate him to be out too long."
Wednesday has become a must win for the Heat.
"We just have to win three in a row which is something we've done a few times throughout the year and in the playoffs already,????????? said Walter. "We're confident. We know we're playing well. But whether it?????????s a few big saves or just not getting rebounds, we're not putting the puck in the net."