TORONTO - Viktor Stalberg's four-point night highlighted a tremendous effort by the Toronto Marlies' top line Sunday.
Stalberg scored two goals and drew assists on a pair of goals by linemate Christian Hanson as the Toronto Marlies downed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-2 in American Hockey League action.
Mike Zigomanis, the centre on that top trio, picked up two assists.
Marlies coach Dallas Eakins said the production is both welcomed and expected.
"That's why they're the top line," he said. "There's high expectations for all three of those young men and they certainly produced."
Stalberg's goal was his first AHL marker as he played his second game with the Marlies. His second tally against the Pens was an empty-netter that iced the win.
Eakins credited Stalberg for maintaining a positive outlook on the heels of his recent demotion by the Toronto Maple Leafs and suggested his offensive outburst was partially the result of the youngster trying to impress Leafs general manager Brian Burke, who was taking in Sunday's game.
"He's an intelligent kid and he's fully committed," Eakins said of Stalberg. "And he's not dumb; he looked up there tonight, he saw Brian Burke sitting there and he wanted to send him a message, and that's what he did."
Despite the big night, Stalberg wasn't happy with everything he showed the big boss.
"I didn't think, even considering the points, I played to the best of my abilities," said the 23-year-old Swede. "I think I made a couple mistakes, which I can't really do if I want to make it back to the NHL soon.
"I've got to work on that, but obviously it's nice to get points and goals to build your confidence a bit."
Hanson broke a 2-2 tie with just 5:58 remaining in the third when he one-timed Stalberg's pass from the lip of the crease, much to the delight of the 2,768 in attendance at the Ricoh Coliseum.
Stalberg set up the play by displaying his ample speed, lugging the puck all the way through the neutral zone and deep into Penguins territory before dishing off.
According to Hanson, the game-winner was evidence of an emerging chemistry between he and Stalberg.
"As soon as he went wide, I knew he was going to throw it to the front so I tried just to get between the two 'D' and I was able to get my stick on the ice, he threw it in front and I re-directed it," he said.
Zigomanis, meanwhile, has nine points, all helpers, in five games since signing with Toronto. He now has a five-game point streak going, with four multi-assist contests to his credit.
The game was a battle of backups, as James Reimer got the call in goal for Toronto while usual No. 2 Brad Thiessen started for Wilkes-Barre Scranton, which was concluding a four-game road trip.
Reimer, who hadn't seen any game action since Oct. 11, turned in a strong performance for the Marlies, stopping 34 shots as Toronto (5-3-2) won its second straight game.
"I thought he played very well tonight after not playing for quite a stretch," Eakins said of his stopper.
The stage was set for a dramatic third period after the teams combined for three second-period goals, two of which came on breakaways.
Wallace pulled the Penguins even 1-1 when he re-directed a weak point shot from Ben Lovejoy past Reimer just over six minutes into the middle frame.
Lovejoy factored prominently in the next goal as well, albeit in much more dubious fashion. Skating backwards just inside his own blue-line, Lovejoy caught an edge and fell to the ice, allowing Stalberg to streak in alone and fire a well-placed high shot off the far post and in.
But the scrappy Pens (5-3-2) pulled even late in the period when Bayda, bursting down the wing, took a crisp pass from Dustin Jeffrey, swooped in on Reimer and beat him with a shot to the glove side that went in just under the crossbar.
Hanson opened the scoring just as a five-on-three advantage expired for the Marlies. After Stalberg failed to connect on a shot from close in, the rebound came right to Hanson and he quickly swiped it into the open net. The goal snapped an 0-for-11 drought on the man advantage for Toronto.
NOTES: A odd enforcement of the rule book saw Toronto defenceman Juraj Mikus receive six minutes for roughing after an altercation with Luca Caputi that could well have resulted in each getting fighting majors. Caputi got two minutes for goalie interference and four for roughing. . . Marlie forwards Andre Deveaux, Tyler Bozak and Richard Greenop all missed their second straight game with the flu.