TORONTO (CP) - The Toronto Marlies won on home ice for the first time in more than two months, beating the Springfield Falcons 3-1 in American Hockey League action on Saturday night.
"Our last home win was before Christmas," said Marlies goalie Jean-Francois Racine, "it feels real good to take this one."
In fact, the victory was Toronto's first at home since beating Milwaukee 4-2 back on Nov. 29. The Marlies had gone 0-8-1 at Ricoh Coliseum in that stretch.
"We're in a position right now where we've got to win some games," said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert. "Tonight was one of those games."
Forwards Colin Murphy, John Mitchell and Brad Leeb scored for the Marlies in front of 5,549 fans.
Centre Erik Westrum collected two assists, while Murphy added a helper for a two-point night.
"It was a huge win for us," said Murphy, who got into a second-period fight to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight).
"We've been thinking about it and talking about it a lot - we just had to go out there and win one.
"And it's something we had to fix ourselves. We have a lot of home games in February."
Left winger Eric Healey provided the scoring for the Falcons.
Marlies netminder Jean-Francois Racine blocked 22 of 23 shots for the victory. At the other end, Falcons stopper Jonathan Boutin made 25 saves on 28 shots.
"If I gave up a rebound, my team was there to clear them for me," Racine said.
Toronto was 1-for-7 on the power play, while Springfield went 1-for-10 with the man advantage.
"We took a few too many penalties, which is always tough on the team," Murphy said. "But other than that, we worked hard and got the win."
The game was a matchup between two teams heading in the wrong direction in recent weeks. The Falcons, losers of six games in a row and 11 of their past 13 to fall to 22-27-1 overall, sit in last place in the Atlantic Division.
Meanwhile, Toronto, 19-26-5 on the season, is second-last in the North Division and 11th in the Western Conference.
The Marlies entered the game on a three-game losing skid and had dropped eight of their previous 11 games.
"We're a pretty fragile club right now," Gilbert said. "When good things happen to us, we start waiting for something bad to happen. We've got to overcome that."
Toronto led 2-0 after the first period and 2-1 through 40 minutes.
The Marlies took a while to locate the net in the first period, but then scored on two of their first three shots.
Boutin made a nice save on a deflection by Marlies winger Ben Ondrus about six minutes into the game, but Murphy and Mitchell soon got the better of the Falcons goalie.
After taking a centring pass from Erik Westrum, Murphy slid the puck between Boutin's legs at 9:45 of the first to give Toronto a 1-0 lead. A few minutes later at 12:45, Mitchell gathered the rebound on Andy Wozniewski's point shot and fired the puck into a gaping net.
The game marked Wozniewski's AHL debut this season. The big defenceman made the Toronto Maple Leafs in training camp, but hurt his shoulder in mid-October and had been sidelined ever since.
"For a guy that has been off that long, it doesn't look like he's missed a step," Gilbert said.
Healey pulled the Falcons within 2-1 6:46 of the second period, but Springfield couldn't get one past Racine after that.
Leeb sealed the game for Toronto when he knocked in his own rebound at 14:11 of the final frame. It was his second goal in two games after sitting out 34 contests due to injuries.
"He's one of those guys who've been out for a while and we really missed him," Gilbert said.
The Marlies try for their second consecutive win on home ice when the West Division-leading Chicago Wolves visit on Monday.