MILWAUKEE - T.J. Brennan has a knack for scoring timely goals.
Brennan scored a momentum-changing goal and assisted on another, and Drew MacIntyre stopped 28-of-30 shots as the Toronto Marlies beat the Milwaukee Admirals 6-2 Friday night to take a 1-0 lead in their American Hockey League first-round, best-of-five playoff series.
"T.J. has that ability of getting pucks to the net. It's his greatest strength, and that was a key goal for us," said Marlies head coach Steve Spott.
Brennan's unassisted goal at 18:55 of the second period came just 68 seconds after Milwaukee had pulled within 2-1 on Patrick Cehlin's one-timer put the Admirals on the board.
Cehlin's goal seemed to give Milwaukee a shot of energy, and the Admirals controlled the action for the next 40 seconds after the face-off. But when the Marlies got the puck to the Milwaukee end, Brennan put them back in control. His shot from the right point appeared to deflect in off the body of defenseman Bryan Rodney, although Milwaukee coach Dean Evason thought his goalie Marek Mazanec was simply screened.
"It was definitely tipped," said Spott. "That's probably the biggest goal of the hockey game, because at 2-1 they have momentum, they're at home, they're probably going to come (on strong). So that was a huge goal for our hockey club.
Brennan, a defenseman, led the Marlies in goals (25) and points (72) in the regular season and his 265 shots on goal were the most on the team by more than 100.
"I just wanted to get it to the net," said Brennan. "I saw a couple of guys, and it ended up going in the net."
Even Brennan wasn't sure if it was deflected.
"I honestly don't know," he said. "They gave me the credit and we scored, so that's all I really cared about."
Brennan's next shot toward the net also found home, although this time it deflected off teammate Jerry D'Amigo. That made it 4-1 just 46 seconds into the third period.
MacIntyre, who played for the Admirals in the 2008-'09 season, made it stand up.
"I was really proud of the guys," said MacIntyre. "I thought we had a really good mental game. We didn't get too high, we didn't get too low."
Mazanec made 22 saves for the Admirals.
Milwaukee's first power play lasted just 5 seconds before Taylor Beck was called for high-sticking to create 4-on-4 hockey. The Marlies took advantage, as Sam Carrick took a loose puck from the back wall and had all day to pull out to the right post and beat Mazanec to the left post at 17:46 of the first.
The Marlies made it 2-0 with a power-play goal just 1:55 into the second. With Charles-Olivier Roussel off for interference, Josh Leivo walked in from the left point. When he got to inside the circle he unleashed a wrister that tinged in off the right post.
Milwaukee cut it to 4-2 on a power-play goal by Filip Forsberg at 2:09 of the third, but couldn't get any closer. Down two goals, the Admirals pulled Mazanec for a two-man advantage after Toronto's Korbinian Holzer went to the box for tripping at 17:15. Kenny Ryan and Sam Carrick cashed in empty-net goals to close the scoring.
"I thought we were very tentative at the start," said Evason. "We didn't have our legs, we didn't get into the hockey game. We thought they skated and took the game to us. We have to start better for sure tomorrow night."
Game 2 is Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, and the next three games (4 and 5, if necessary) are in Toronto.