TORONTO - Defenceman Josh Engel picked a good time to score his first goal of the season for the Toronto Marlies.
Engel stick handled around an opposing defender at the blue-line and scored the game-winning goal late in the second period as the Marlies beat the visiting Peoria Rivermen 4-3 in American Hockey League action on Sunday.
"That was a highlight-reel goal," said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, who's not given to hyperbole.
"I kind of blacked out a little bit," Engel said. "All I remember was (Ryan) Hamilton coming across and he made a nice drop pass to me. I knew their defenceman was caught flat-footed. ? It felt nice pulling it off.
"Hopefully I get a couple more goals this year, but it was a nice first goal."
Hamilton, who said he went to Germany with Engel in the off-season to sharpen their skills, had an up-close view of the winning tally.
"I know he was working on a toe-drag, but the way he pulled it off out there was really nice," said Hamilton. "I was glad to be on the ice, I just watched him go. ? You don't see a defenceman go one-on-one very often, but I know he's got good hands."
Marcel Mueller, Jerry D'Amigo and Greg Scott also scored for Toronto, which won its fourth straight, while Nazem Kadri collected two assists.
Toronto took control of the game when D'Amigo and Scott scored 77 seconds apart early in the second period, giving the Marlies a two-goal cushion and a lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
"We've got a resilient group," Eakins said. "We played one man under the roster limit tonight and we've had some call-ups and some injuries ??? But that's opportunity. Guys want to take on a bigger role, and now they're getting the chance and they're stepping up and doing it."
Toronto, playing in front of an announced crowd of 5,209 at Ricoh Coliseum, improved to 10-5-3 to remain in first place in the North Division.
Jonathan Cheechoo, Phil McRae and Tyler Shattock replied for Peoria, with Danny Syvret and Mark Cundari chipping in with two helpers apiece. Peoria dropped their second straight game to fall to 9-8-2.
Toronto goalie Jussi Rynnas blocked 28 shots for the win while Peoria netminder Jake Allen made 31 saves in a losing effort.
"(Rynnas) is such a competitive guy," Eakins said. "For him, it's about winning and that's it."
The game was tied 1-1 after the first period and Toronto led 4-2 through 40 minutes.
The Marlies opened the scoring with a power-play marker when Simon Gysbers' point shot deflected off of Mueller's skate and eluded Allen 3:32 into the opening frame. The Rivermen tied the contest at 1-1 when Cheechoo swooped into the slot and one-timed a pass from Danny Syrvet past Rynnas at 14:57 of the first.
Toronto wasted little time retaking the lead, scoring twice before the second period was two minutes old. D'Amigo fired a wrist shot from the slot past Allen just 37 seconds into the second, and Scott scored from almost the exact same spot at 1:54 to give Toronto a 3-1 edge.
McRae pulled Peoria within a goal when he one-timed a slapshot from the top of the right faceoff circle over Rynnas' left shoulder at 4:34 of the second while the Rivermen had a two-man advantage on the power play.
But then Engel took over, restoring Toronto's two-goal cushion by deking a Rivermen defender and ripping a shot over Allen's right shoulder at 14:19.
"That's something we've seen out of him in practice," Eakins said. "When he got that puck, there were guys on the bench calling what he was going to do and they called it to a 'T.' I'm just happy for the kid. He's usually one of our odd men out on D, but when he gets a chance to play he usually plays very well."
Shattock made it a one-goal game when he tapped a rebound into a wide-open net at 6:46 of the third period, but Rynnas closed the door on the Rivermen for the rest of the game.
Toronto went 1-for-4 on the power play while Peoria was 1-for-5.
The Marlies are off until the weekend, when they travel to St. John's for a pair of games against the IceCaps on Friday and Saturday.