TORONTO - Frustration was setting in for Nazem Kadri with just one goal in seven games.
But after catching a break on an early second-period goal, Kadri went on to score another that ended up being the winner as the Toronto Marlies defeated the Milwaukee Admirals 3-2 in American Hockey League action Saturday.
"It was a great feeling," said Kadri, the Maple Leafs' seventh overall pick in 2009. "The first period I had a few chances and I was getting a little frustrated because they weren't going in for. But once I got that one in the second, I felt the world fall off my shoulders."
That goal gave the Marlies a 2-0 lead just 45 seconds into the second period. Simon Gysbers' point shot bounced off the end boards and back in front to Kadri who snapped a shot high past the glove hand of Engren for his 12th of the season.
"The past week and a half I've been putting up four, five, six shots a game, and ringing a bunch off the post and it just hasn't been going my way," Kadri said. "Any offensive player will tell you the same ? if you get an assist or a goal early in the game you start to feel good about yourself. You're a lot more composed with the puck and can create a lot more."
With his scoring touch back, Kadri scored the winning goal with just 3:06 left in the game, deflecting a pass from Mike Zigomanis on a 2-on-1 break past Admirals goaltender Atte Engren.
"When he's able to score and get some production he starts to feel a whole lot better about himself," said Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. "He was starting to get frustrated. He hit the post, he had the goalie inside-out, but he just couldn't put it in the net, so it was nice to see him get that first one and then he drives to the net on the second one and was able to chip it in there.
"When players like that are having trouble scoring, they start looking inside and asking themselves, 'Am I ever going to score again?' I knew it was building for him, so it was a nice monkey off his back."
Ryan Hamilton also scored for the Marlies, while Jussi Rynnas made 24 saves for the win.
Brodie Dupont and Kyle Wilson replied for the Admirals. Atte Engren took the loss, stopping 22 shots in net.
Zigomanis had three assists to give him 57 points on the season, tops on the Marlies and ninth in the league. He and Kadri have been paired together for much of the season.
"We seem to work well together last year and this year," Zigomanis said. "Goals haven't gone in the way we've wanted them to, but we feel like we should be able to get two, three, four goals a game ... That's what we're looking to do and we have the capability.
"I'm always on Naz to make the simple play. After the season he had last year and the way he's been playing in the NHL, all the teams down here in the AHL know to key on him, and I'm sure he's a name brought up in the dressing room before every game. He's got find other ways to get it done and he's been doing that."
Kadri said Zigomanis has been mentoring him all season long.
"Ziggy's a great player and he brings a veteran presence," Kadri said. "I try to follow his lead. He knows a lot about the game. Him and I talk a lot and try to work on all aspects of our game ??? We've been working great together and I hope it keeps going."
Toronto (36-21-7) opened the scoring on the power play 13:51 into the first period. A shot from Philippe Dupuis at the side of the goal ricocheted right in front to Hamilton, who whacked the puck past Engren for his team-leading 23rd goal.
Milwaukee finally got on the board in the final minute of the second when Dupont stuffed in a rebound past Rynnas during a scrum around the Toronto goal.
After Kadri's first goal, Milwaukee (31-27-4) tied the game at two 7:43 into the third. Jonathon Blum made a beautiful pass from his own zone up the middle to Wilson, who took it at the Marlies' blue-line and made a nice deke around Rynnas' poke-check to score his 18th goal.
It was the fourth win in a row for Toronto, which strengthened its hold atop the Northeast Division and second in the Western Conference with 79 points.
Toronto plays its third game in three days when it hosts the Chicago Wolves on Sunday.
Notes: Toronto came into the game tied in goals for (183) and goals against (146) with the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Barons. . . The Marlies are 36-6-5 when scoring two goals or more. . . Announced attendance was 5,807.