TORONTO - Jussi Rynnas knew he was due for a win.
The Toronto Marlies rode the stellar goaltending of their Finnish goaltender to a 3-1 victory over the St. John's IceCaps in American Hockey League action Sunday.
Rynnas stopped 36 of 37 shots he faced and Matt Caruana, Jerry D'Amigo and Ryan Hamilton had the goals for the Marlies in front of 4,441 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
Aaron Gagnon had the lone goal for the IceCaps and Edward Pasquale made 18 saves in net.
It was Rynnas' first win since Nov. 26, which also came against St. John's.
"Today was one of those days when everything felt good," he said. "In the morning when I woke up I knew I was going to have a good game. Today was a good day for me.
"I like getting a lot of shots. I started to feel better and better, and every time I gave up a rebound the 'D' took it away. They helped me so much today."
It was Rynnas' first start in more than two weeks and just his second in the past 12 games.
"He played excellent and he hasn't played a lot," said Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. "Jussi is an interesting guy. Ben Scrivens really benefitted from getting a ton of shots and playing lots in the East Coast League, and Mark Owuya has benefitted the same way, while Jussi has had to kind of bide his time here.
"I love that he stayed sharp in practice. He's fierce, competitive guy and he made some big saves for us in the closing minutes."
The game matched the AHL's best road team against the league's top home club. The IceCaps came into the game 12-0-3 away from St. John's, while the Marlies were 8-2-2 at Ricoh Coliseum.
Eakins made sure to use the match-up to rouse his troops for the New Year's Day game.
"You're always looking for motivation every night," he said. "Your motivation is two points every night, but sometimes there is other motivation???We used it yesterday before the game and we talked about it again today. 'Let's be the team to show these guys what it's like to lose (in regulation) on the road.'"
The Marlies did just that, halting the IceCaps remarkable road streak and splitting back-to-back games with St. John's after losing 4-3 in a shootout Saturday.
Toronto (17-12-5) opened the scoring at 8:23 of the first period. Simon Gysbers threaded a pass in the slot to a streaking Kelsey Wilson whose rebound was tapped into an open net by Caruana for his first of the season.
"It's nice to finally get one," Caruana said. "I've been playing in a checking role on the lower lines. Today I got the opportunity to play with (Zigomanis) and (Hamilton), and I just tried to make the most of it. I'm just glad to chip in offensively and get the monkey off my back."
The teams followed a sluggish first with a timid second, with neither team finding the net in the middle frame.
"We knew it had to be all of our guys," Eakins said. "Even though we were able to get a point yesterday, I thought we had some passengers???I thought today our guys were way more engaged. They knew we had to probably win this game 1-0."
D'Amigo gave the Marlies a 2-0 cushion at 10:41 of the third period, but St. John's answered right back just over two minutes later when Gagnon jammed in a rebound past Rynnas (5-7-0), pushing the goalie's left pad into the net and puck along with it.
The IceCaps pulled Pasquale (7-4-0) for an extra attacker, but couldn't beat Rynnas who made several spectacular saves in the dying minutes of the game to preserve the win.
"Jussi stood on his head tonight," Caruana said. "He really kept us in the game, especially in the last five minutes he made some really big saves for us. He definitely had one of his best games of the season today."
Hamilton scored an empty-net goal with three seconds remaining. It was his sixth goal in five games.
The Marlies' victory was the first time in five games between the clubs that the home team has won.
The two teams will meet again Jan. 10 and 11 in St. John's.