TORONTO - A powerless power-play and shoddy penalty killing have Toronto Marlies facing elimination - again
The Chicago Wolves scored four goals on the power play in a 4-1 win over the Marlies on Tuesday in Game 3 of the American Hockey League Western Conference final series.
Toronto, which overcame a 3-1 deficit in the last round, now trails the series 3-0 and will try to stave off elimination in Game 4 Wednesday night at home.
"I guess a lot of guys on our team don't learn about staying out of the penalty box," said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert, adding he wasn't impressed with every decision referee Francois St-Laurent made. "There was some undisciplined calls, but here was some calls that you really wonder about".
The final score was in doubt until Chicago defenceman Joel Kwiatkowski scored the insurance marker on a power play halfway through the third to the disappointment of 2,573 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
"We're cats that are cornered, we've got to come out scratching and fighting and clawing and try to get one win; we'll worry about the second one when it comes," Gilbert said.
Nathan Oystrick, Steve Martins and Jordan LaVallee also beat Toronto goalie Scott Clemmensen, while Chris Harrington answered for the Marlies.
The Marlies can't seem to keep up with the Wolves even when on a power play. Toronto is 0-for-18 in the series with the man advantage and has been outscored 12-2 through the first three games.
"We don't move the puck quick enough, we don't get enough shots through, it's all basic stuff and we've talked about it from Day 1, so the reason for them not doing it, I don't know," Gilbert said.
The Marlies, who entered the third period down 2-1, pushed hard for the equalizer in the final frame, but were denied by Chicago goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Kwiatkowski floated one by Clemmensen on the man advantage to shift the momentum firmly on Chicago's side.
Harrington expressed frustration with the Marlies' inability to break through with more scoring.
"We've scored two goals in three games against these guys and that's not going to win against Chicago, for sure - that's not going to win against a college team half the time," said Harrington. "We need to find a way to score some goals, I have no idea how, we just need to keep banging along and seeing if they'll start going in".
LaVallee added his power-play marker with less than four minutes left to salt the victory.
The game was an intense affair with several hard bodychecks thrown on both sides. The Marlies' Kris Newbury made it a personal mission to agitate six-foot-seven Wolves defenceman Boris Valabik, getting in the big blue-liner's face on several occasions. Toronto defenceman Bryan Muir also knocked Wolves right-winger Joe Motzko out of the game with a clean, hard hit in the second.
After falling behind in the first period, the Marlies squared the game at one less than seven minutes into the middle frame thanks to some good forechecking by Harrington, Kris Newbury and Bates Battaglia. The trio hassled the Chicago defence into a turnover, which gave Newbury the puck deep in the zone. Just as he was about to go behind the net, Newbury slid a pass in front to Harrington, who slammed it home from the lip of the crease.
The goal ended a stretch of 119 minutes and 19 seconds in which Toronto had not beaten Pavelec dating back to the second period of Game 1.
Instead of building on the momentum of their goal, the Marlies got themselves into penalty trouble and Chicago regained its lead just past the halfway point of the second. Martins found a loose puck in front of the goal and whacked it to the back of the net just seconds after a two-man advantage for the Wolves had expired.
Chicago got the only goal of the first period while enjoying a two-man advantage with less than five minutes left in the frame. Darren Haydar missed on the short side with a shot from close in, but the puck caromed off the back boards and right onto Oystrick's stick. The defenceman showed quick hands in settling the puck, then firing past Clemmensen before the goalie could get set.
Notes: Haydar's assist ran his points streak to six games ... Chicago's Jason Krog picked up an assist and leads the AHL playoffs in scoring with 25 points ... Wolves coach John Anderson was the Toronto Maple Leafs' first pick in the 1977 NHL draft and played 534 games with the club.