With the Marlies heading home down 2-0 in the American Hockey League finals, Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins says getting back in the series will be “a marathon up a steep mountain.”
Alexandre Picard broke open a 1-1 tie in the second period and the Norfolk Admirals beat the Marlies 4-2 in Game 2 of the Calder Cup series Saturday.
The series now moves to Toronto for games Thursday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday.
“We’re on the right path, and I think our guys truly believe that we can go home and win,” said Eakins
But to do so will require more offence than the Marlies have managed so far from their depleted roster.
“When you get behind in games and you look down the bench and you’re looking for names, no disrespect to the young men who are out there battling, but a line of (Mike) Zigomanis, (Nazem) Kadri and (Matt) Frattin would look pretty good right now,” Eakins said.
They are three of Toronto’s best offensive players, but all are injured.
For most of Saturday’s game, the Marlies did fare better than in Game 1, which was a rough-and-tumble affair that included 71 penalty minutes and 15 power plays, 10 of them awarded to Toronto.
“First games are like that,” Eakins said. “Teams are going to go out and flex their muscles to show that they’re not going to be afraid and that they’re going to be the instigator. And I think after the first game, things settle down.”
They did Saturday, when only nine power plays were assessed.
Some of that might have been the result of league officials talking to Eakins and Norfolk coach Jon Cooper, sending a message that Game 2 should be different from Game 1.
“The difference between last night and tonight was that two teams tried to play a little hockey,” said Admirals coach Jon Cooper.
Richad Panik, Brandon Segal and Trevor Smith also scored for the Admirals.
Joe Colborne and Juraj Mikus, in the game’s final minute, replied for Toronto.
Norfolk opened the scoring with Panik’s goal as he deked Ben Scrivens and pushed the puck through the Toronto goalie’s legs.
Colborne’s power-play goal later in the first period, breaking an 0-for-11 drought for the Marlies in the series, evened the game.
Picard sent home a rebound for a 2-1 lead in the second, and that edge was stretched by third-period goals from Segal and Smith, both on outside shots that beat Scrivens.
The Marlies starter came into the series with a 1.61 goals-against average in the playoffs. He has surrendered six goals in the two nights.
Mikus scored in the closing seconds for the Marlies, who pressed Norfolk goalie Dustin Tokarski but couldn’t solve him. Tokarski turned back 30 of 32 shots in winning for the 10th time in 12 playoff appearances this season.
And now the series goes to Toronto, “a bigger stage,” said Cooper because of the city’s passion for hockey. But several of the Admirals have played before big crowds in world junior championships, and two of them — Picard and Jean-Philippe Cote — have won Calder Cups with other teams.
“This is a business trip for us,” Cooper said. “Our business is winning hockey games.”