ROSEMONT, Ill. - Even as two early power-play goals helped establish a 3-0 lead Toronto Marlies coach Steve Spott said he still felt uneasy Friday.
He didn't need to worry.
The Marlies never trailed on the way to a 5-2 American Hockey League playoff victory over the Chicago Wolves in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal.
"It's a little bit scary. You're up 3-0 and two of those goals came pretty early," Spott said. "It definitely didn't feel like a 3-0 game. We knew they were going to come at us, they did."
The Marlies used two power-play goals to grab an the early advantage while goaltender Drew MacIntyre turned back 37 shots.
"It was a 60-minute effort," Spott said. "All four lines played very hard tonight."
Centre Trevor Smith opened the scoring with his first goal of the post-season, a power-play goal on a short backhand at 10:54 of the first period.
Toronto converted another power-play chance at 14:55 as centre Peter Holland slipped a backhand over the glove of Wolves goaltender Jake Allen.
The teams were at even strength in the second when Greg McKegg scored his second goal of the playoffs at 5:02 with a slapshot for a 3-0 lead.
"Once they got up a couple of goals they (played) a little freer, they felt good about themselves and it took us a while to get back on track," said Chicago coach John Anderson.
The Wolves got on the board five minutes later as Christian Hanson dumped a short rebound shot past MacIntyre. Chicago winger Michael Davies cut the deficit to 3-2 at 17:26, beating MacIntyre on a one-on-one.
Toronto restored a two-goal lead at 3:53 of the third period. Winger Carter Ashton slipped while shooting but his wide, wobbly shot was deflected off Allen's stick into the net.
The Marlies closed out the Wolves on Sam Carrick's fourth post-season goal at 17:19.
"There were a couple of mistakes that cost us goals," Spott said. "We didn't get in the shot lane when we should have and had a bad line change in the second period. But beyond those two mistakes I thought we played a pretty thorough road game."
Allen finished with 30 saves for Chicago.
In two regular season meetings this season, seven-of-eight combined goals by the Wolves and Marlies came on power plays. The Marlies claimed a 3-2 overtime win at Chicago on Jan. 17 while the Wolves had a 2-1 triumph eight days later in Toronto.
The series resumes Saturday in suburban Chicago then shifts to Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum next Wednesday for at least two games, and three if necessary.
The post-season series is the first between the teams since 2008. The Wolves went 4-1 on the way to their most recent Calder Cup.