ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - The Toronto Marlies relied on three of their biggest names for a win on Saturday night.
Nazem Kadri scored 58 seconds into the game and Matt Frattin scored the eventual winner 10 minutes later to lead the Marlies to a 4-1 victory over the Abbotsford Heat in American Hockey League playoff action.
"Naz was fired up before the game," said Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens. "It was obvious to everyone in the room that he wanted to have a bit one. He got the game off on the right foot for not only himself but the rest of the team."
Scrivens made 20 saves as Toronto pulled ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series. That early goal benefited the entire team.
"Anytime you can score early, it sets the tone for the rest of the game," said Scrivens. "Everyone's a little bit more relaxed."
Frattin's goal was a solo effort, stealing the puck from Abbotsford defenceman Clay Wilson.
"We were just trying to get hard on our forechecks," said Frattin. "I just stripped Wilson a little bit, tried to get the shot around the defenceman and on net and it was lucky enough to beat (Heat goaltender Leland) Irving."
Phillippe Dupuis and Marcel Mueller each had a goal and an assist for the Marlies, while Nicolas Deschamps added three assists.
Dustin Sylvester scored for Abbotsford.
Irving made 22 saves for the Heat in his first start since the regular season finale. Danny Taylor was on extended winning streak prior to Thursday's loss for the Heat.
"Leland played well," said Wilson. "They had breakaways, opportunities that he stopped that kept it close. He made good stops and played the puck well."
Regardless of who plays in net for Abbotsford, Toronto knows that the keys to the game are the same.
"It doesn't matter who they have in there ??? they're both good goalies over there," said Scrivens. "We've got to get pucks to the net and capitalize when we get opportunities."
Kadri picked up his third of the playoffs with a wraparound goal.
"That wrap around is one I'll stop 99 out of 100," said Irving. "After that it was just about playing my game and being patient."
Frattin made it 2-0 at 11:43, stealing the puck near centre, and his shot deflected off Chris Breen's stick and in for his fourth of the post-season.
"I saw him coming with speed, all alone, so I just tried to get it by him," said Wilson. "He had a good stick, came down and made a good shot."
Frattin has scored in each game of the series.
The Heat got on the board early in the second frame when Sylvester deflected a Clay Wilson point shot for his third of the playoffs at 2:21.
Ten minutes later Dupuis put the puck through Irving's legs from the side of the net and it slowly made its way across the goal-line.
"We came out good in the second," said Wilson. "We had a good push. But when they came back and scored that third goal, it put us on our heels again."
Irving struggled much of the night, fighting off a lot of pucks, but made a stellar breakaway save off of Greg Scott to keep his team within two.
However, with just over five minutes to go in the game Dupuis set up Mueller who finished off a give-and-go at 14:46.
Abbotsford finished 0-for-4 on the power play and are now 0-for-16 in the series. Toronto's penalty killing unit has been tops AHL most of the season and was one of the keys to the win.
"Our best PK is trying to stay out of the box," said Frattin. "But the last two games we've been killing quite a bit. We've got a lot of guys who know how to do the job and we're definitely confident in them."
Of course, a hot goaltender is the best penalty killer. Scrivens was that, despite only needing to make six saves over the final 20 minutes.
"He's a confident kid," said Frattin. "It doesn't matter if they just scored, he'll get back on his feet and start playing like we know he can. He's definitely our backbone. We're just trying to get some goals for him. He's keeping us in games and winning some for us."
Scrivens is now leading the Calder Cup playoffs with a 1.68 goals-against average, allowing just 10 goals, along with his second-best 0.939 save percentage.
"In this league, especially when you have a goalie like Ben Scrivens down there, you have to get lots of pucks and traffic in front of him," said Irving.
Game 4 is Tuesday at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.