TORONTO - A huge game from Max Taylor ensured the Toronto Marlies left home on a happy note. The centre couldn't help but show just how pumped up he was after scoring his first career American Hockey League hat trick.
Playing their final game in Toronto before embarking on a monster road trip, the Marlies soundly defeated the Philadelphia Phantoms 6-1 on Saturday for their fifth win in six games.
Taylor completed his three-goal game on a Marlies power play with just two ticks left on the clock and celebrated his achievement rather rambunctiously despite the fact the last goal in a lopsided contest usually calls for more restraint.
"Our goalie, (Adam) Munro just asked me, 'Did you forget it was 6-1?' because I celebrated so much on the sixth goal," joked Taylor, who now has five goals in just nine games this year and had only 13 games of AHL experience prior to this season. "I totally didn't think of the score. I was just too excited and I'm sure you guys saw that in my celebration."
Taylor took in the game from the press box. The 25-year-old, who has been injured and spent time in the ECHL this year, was a last-minute addition to the lineup after Kyle Rogers' lower-body injury prevented him from suiting up.
"He's a good little hockey player," said Toronto coach Greg Gilbert, who confirmed he got Taylor on the ice late to give him the chance to bag his third of the game. "He's competitive, he just came back from a long injury, but he's showed no signs of that. It's good to see him have some success, he works hard every day, he's got some skill and he's a good two-way player."
With this win under their belt, the Marlies now hit the road for a nine-game, 18-day road trip that will see them travel a total of 5,037 kilometres while the Ricoh Coliseum hosts the Toronto International Boat Show.
Stefano Giliati scored an eye-popping goal and added a pair of assists for a three-point game, while Darryl Boyce and Mark Bell also scored for the Marlies. Toronto has won four straight home games and scored a combined 12 goals in their last two victories on home ice.
The only major mistake by the Marlies against the Phantoms came when Richard Petiot took a five-minute boarding penalty on Rob Sirianni just over six minutes into the third period with his team up by three goals. However, Toronto's penalty killing hung tough and didn't allow the Phantoms' power play any quality chances.
Just after the penalty expired, Taylor put the game on ice by converting a pass from Giliati on a nice 2-on-1 break for his second marker of the contest.
The only time Gilbert was unhappy with his charges was when they backed off a little too much while up by three goals to start the final frame.
"We kind of sat back at the start of the third period and they're a hard-working team," Gilbert said. "They're not going to quit, they came at us and they put us in a position where we took a hooking penalty (early in the period), then the five-minute major. We gave them every opportunity by just not being prepared for the third period.
"But outside of that I thought we played a lot of really good hockey, a lot of good attention to detail and obviously the results were because of that".
Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who spent three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, started the game for Philadelphia, but left after the first period with what the team called a lower-body injury. He was replaced by Scott Munroe to start the second frame.
Neither Philadelphia goalie got much support as the Marlies outshot the visitors 38-15
Things actually started well for Philadelphia, but the good times didn't last long. David Laliberte opened the scoring just 1:01 into the game when he wired a shot from the slot to the top corner on a Phantoms power play.
However, the Marlies answered back less than four minutes later and led 3-1 by the end of the opening frame.
Boyce got the ball rolling with his team-leading ninth goal while the Marlies were enjoying a man advantage. Boyce got a bit of a break as his shot appeared to glance off a Philadelphia defender en route to the net, but the next two Toronto goals were displays of pure skill. Giliati's marker was the prettiest, as he slid the puck past his feet on the backhand while cutting to the middle of the ice, quickly spun around to avoid a bodycheck and fired a shot past Aubin.
Bell's goal came after Alex Foster took a hit to chip the puck to Brent Aubin just before crossing the Phantoms blue-line. That created a 2-on-1 opportunity and Bell made no mistake, one-timing Aubin's pass to the back of the net.
The Marlies got to Munroe in the second when Taylor, on the heels of a poor clearing attempt by Philadelphia, found a loose puck in his feet and chipped it past Munroe from the lip of the crease for his first marker of the game.
Taylor and his teammates know their long foray away from home will be crucial in determining the path of a team that currently sits fourth in the North Division.
"This road trip is huge, it's going to make or break our season," Taylor said. "The league is so close, you're a couple points from being in the playoffs or out of the playoffs and all those teams we play are one or two points in front of us or one or two points behind us."
Notes: The Marlies played without centre Kris Newbury because he was called up to the Maple Leafs after Friday night's win over the Iowa Chops... Toronto captain Ben Ondrus missed his fifth consecutive game with an upper-body injury... After returning from their monster road trip, the Marlies will play 11 consecutive home games beginning Jan. 24 versus the Chicago Wolves and ending Feb. 21 against the Rochester Americans.