TORONTO - After more than a month on the sidelines, Jussi Rynnas picked up where he left off.
Rynnas, who hadn?t played since Nov. 13 due to a pulled groin muscle, made 31 saves to lead the Toronto Marlies to a 5-0 shutout victory over the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins in American Hockey League action on Sunday.
"He was certainly impressive," said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins. "I thought he'd go in and battle hard, but that might be the best game I?ve ever seen him play.
"Every win is a team win, but (Rynnas) was a massive part of today?s victory."
Rynnas denied a Griffins breakaway in the opening moments of the game, made a quick reaction save after a Marlies turnover in the second period and stood tall in preserving the shutout during Grand Rapids? four power-play chances in the third period.
"It feels pretty good," Rynnas said. "The team is playing really well, too. I trust those guys in front of me and that helps me trust myself."
Rynnas has been stellar in the few games he?s played this season. The 24-year-old native of Pori, Finland, is 4-0-1 with three shutouts in five appearances and has a 1.55 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. The shutout against Grand Rapids was the eighth of Rynnas? career with the Marlies, passing Toronto starter Ben Scrivens and Justin Pogge for the franchise record.
"It???s nice, of course," Rynnas said, ???but it???s not a big deal for me."
Keith Aucoin scored twice and Nazem Kadri, Nicolas Deschamps and Ryan Hamilton also tallied as the Marlies (15-9-1) won their second straight and sixth of their past seven games.
"We???ve been playing well the past month or so," Aucoin said. "We???re coming together as a team, we???re getting great goaltending, the power play and penalty killing are doing well???It's just all coming together right now and we want to keep it going."
Aucoin???s first goal of the game was his 800th AHL point, which ranks 11th all-time, while Kadri and Hamilton chipped in an assist apiece for two-point nights. Toronto defenceman Paul Ranger collected two helpers in front of an announced crowd of 5,767 at Ricoh Coliseum.
"It???s good, it???s a great accomplishment," said Aucoin on hitting the 800-point plateau. "It???s moments like this that I???ll look back on and remember what a career it was.
"I was just hoping it (800th point) would be an assist because I pass the puck more than I shoot it."
The Griffins lost their second consecutive game to fall to 13-9-2. Tom McCollum made 21 saves in a losing effort.
The game was tied 0-0 after the first period before the Marlies broke it open and took a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes.
Toronto opened the scoring 20 seconds into the second when Ryan Hamilton found Aucoin all alone in front and the centre redirected the puck past McCollum.
Kadri made it 2-0 for the Marlies when he whacked a rebound through a scrambling McCollum for a power-play goal at 6:59.
Toronto scored another power-play marker ??? during a 5-on-3 advantage ??? when Aucoin deflected the puck at 19:57 of the second period.
Deschamps gave Toronto a four-goal cushion when he went hard to the net and banged in a rebound at 7:44 of the third period. Hamilton rounded out the scoring 32 seconds later when he shrugged off a Griffins defender, broke in alone and lifted the puck over McCollum???s shoulder.
Toronto went 2-for-7 on the power play while Grand Rapids was 0-for-7.
Both teams are back in action on Wednesday as the Marlies visit the Lake Erie Monsters and the Griffins host the Rochester Americans.