TORONTO (CP) - It turns out home ice does count for something.
The Toronto Marlies, owners of the worst home record in the American Hockey League, scored a pair of power play goals to beat the visiting Houston Aeros 4-3 in a basement battle Friday night. "Like every game in the AHL, there's always something to prove," said Marlies captain Marc Moro. "Obviously, the playoffs are a long shot, but the focus for us is to come together as a team.
"That's when we play our best."
It was the 13th consecutive road loss for the Aeros.
"We fell behind early; we were behind all night," said Aeros coach Rob Daum. "We're not a team that's adept at coming back."
Defencemen Jamie Sifers and Chris Harrington had power-play goals for Toronto, while forwards John Mitchell and Tyson Nash also scored in front of 2,862 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
Nash and Harrington each had an assist for two-point nights, while Alexander Suglobov collected three helpers.
"We learned a lesson from the last game," said Moro, referring to a 7-4 home loss against Binghamton on Wednesday in which Toronto squandered a two-goal lead.
"We had a great start in that game, too, but got overconfident and didn't show enough respect to our opponent.
"Tonight, we were better. It's a learning process."
Forwards Aaron Voros, Danny Irmen and Benoit Pouliot replied for the Aeros. Pouliot also chipped in with an assist.
"The door was open for us to come back, but we didn't
finish off our opportunities," Daum said.
Toronto improved to 25-34-6 on the season, while Houston
fell to 22-33-9.
The Marlies remain in last place in the North Division, 12th overall in the Western Conference, and were 12 points back of the Iowa Stars, who played at San Antonio last night.
Houston, meanwhile, is last in the West Division and Western Conference.
Toronto entered the game 10-20-3 at home, while Houston hasn't won on the road since beating Iowa on Jan. 12.
"It's something different every night," Daum said. "It's a different area every game. If we score three goals, we give up four. If we score two goals, we give up three. If we score one goal, we give up two."
Toronto netminder Justin Pogge stopped 21 of 24 shots for the victory. At the other end, Dieter Kochan made 29 saves on 33 shots.
"We played a good, solid game," Pogge said. "I felt pretty good, too, and saw the puck well the whole game."
Toronto was 2-for-7 on the power play, a marked improvement for a team that had gone 3-for-33 in its previous five games. Houston went 1-for-3 with the man advantage. The Aeros had been 3-for-45 in their previous nine games.
The game was tied 2-2 after the first period and the Marlies led 4-3 through 40 minutes.
In the opening period, the Marlies jumped out to an early 2-0 edge on a pair of goals that Kochan should have stopped, but Houston rallied to tie it up.
Sifers, while skating along the goal line, fired a wrist shot that squeezed between Kochan and the goalpost to spot Toronto to a 1-0 lead. The power play goal came at 5:02.
Mitchell put Toronto up 2-0 when he came out from the corner and swept the puck past Kochan. The Marlies centre outworked two Aeros players, John Scott and Peter Olvecky, in the right corner to gain the puck and a good scoring chance.
The Aeros, though, recovered from their slow start. Voros, standing at the mouth of the Marlies crease, deposited a fat rebound past Pogge at 14:39. Less than three minutes later, Irmen took a pass from Bryan Lundbohm and broke in all alone on the Marlies goaltender. A nifty deke and roofed backhander later, it was 2-2 at 17:19 of the first.
Nash re-established Toronto's lead at 8:47 of the second
period when he deflected a rebound out of mid-air past
"It was kind of a lucky goal all around," Nash said, "but I'll
Harrington scored what proved to be the game-winner when, on the power play, he one-timed a slapshot from the slot that blew by Kochan at 11:42.
"We had good movement out there and it was a good pass to me," Harrington said. "I just closed my eyes, put my head down and shot it as hard as I could."
The Aeros pulled within a goal at 14:15 of the middle frame when Pouliot scored on the power play. Houston had good puck movement down low before sending it back to the blue-line, where Pouliot skated to the top of the faceoff circles and unleashed a low wrist shot.
The third period was scoreless, with few chances for either
team.The Marlies host the Rochester Americans on Sunday at 7