TORONTO - The Toronto Marlies ended a long homestand on a sour note.
Tyler Plante turned aside 36 shots as the Rochester Americans defeated the Marlies 3-1 on Saturday afternoon in what was the final game of a stretch that saw Toronto play 11 consecutive home contests.
Jeremy Williams got the Marlies' only goal and Justin Pogge took the loss, stopping 26 shots in his first AHL game since being sent down by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Karl Stewart scored late in the first period for Rochester and Dan Brine provided his team a 2-0 lead it would not relinquish in the middle frame. Shawn Matthias snapped home a low shot from the faceoff circle with just over seven minutes remaining to ice the game for the Americans.
Williams thought his team went too long without getting fully engaged in the game.
"More at the end of the second and in the third, we got our feet going and we have to exploit their D-men because their guys were dumping pucks into our corners and running our D-men and that's where they created their opportunities," said Williams, who scored for the second straight game. "For the first 40 minutes of the game we didn't really do that."
Toronto coach Greg Gilbert concurred with that sentiment.
"Early in the game we were losing one-on-one battles, we were getting out-competed and just making plays that caused us grief," he said.
Plante had to be sharp once the Marlies woke up. He made 16 third-period for the Americans, who sit last in the North Division, but have earned points in four straight contests.
Williams felt the Marlies could have done more to make life miserable for the Rochester goalie.
"We got a lot of shots, but we weren't getting to the net and we weren't making it very tough for Plante," he said. "He played well, he had his angles covered and he seemed to be coming across well."
Pogge put forth a solid game until letting Matthias' squeaker slip through.
"I felt pretty good," Pogge said. "I wish I could have had that third one back, but I don't know if he got all of it or if that's where he wanted to go, but you've got to have those. I felt I played pretty good."
Just over five minutes into the second frame, Williams put his team in a hole by taking a five-minute boarding major. Rochester looked poised to take full advantage of the golden opportunity when Brine scored just one minute into the power play.
However, the Marlies killed off the rest of the man advantage and Williams, upon hopping out of the box, grabbed a loose puck and began heading up ice. He attempted to chip the puck high into the corner, but it was batted back to him by a Rochester defender. Williams swooped around the defence and wired one of his patented wrist shots high over Plante's blocker hand on the short side.
Toronto, playing in front of 4,725 fans at the Ricoh Coliseum, nearly tied the game on a power play in the third, but a point shot from Mark Bell clanked off the goalpost.
Rochester opened the scoring late in the first period when Dan Collins made a nice spin move in the corner and centred the puck to Stewart, who hammered it past Pogge from the bottom of the faceoff circle.
The Marlies, currently fourth in the North, have lost two straight and concluded their extended home streak with a 7-4 record. Gilbert wanted to see his team take more advantage of such a plush spot in the schedule.
"It would have been nice to be 9-2 or 8-3, somewhere in there, but 7-4 you're slightly over .500 and we've got a lot of work to do ahead of us," he said.
NOTES: Jiri Tlusty had his point streak halted at nine games, while Bates Battaglia's assist streak stopped at six games. The Marlies and Americans will play the second half of their home-and-home series on Sunday in Rochester as the Marlies embark on a three-game road trip. Longtime Toronto Maple Leaf Steve Thomas presided over the ceremonial faceoff.