Matt Frattin showed he’s a dangerous offensive player, even when he has an off day.
Frattin scored two goals, including the game-winner, as the Toronto Marlies defeated the Oklahoma City Barons 5-3 in American Hockey League action Monday.
The Marlies now hold a 2-1 lead over the Barons in the Western Conference final, with the next two games also coming at Ricoh Coliseum after the teams split the first two contests in Oklahoma City.
The 24-year-old Frattin scored the winning goal on a 1-on-3 rush with just two minutes left, snapping a shot through a Barons defender and past goaltender Yann Danis.
“I was just trying to use the screen,” said Frattin, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ fourth round selection (99th overall) in 2007. “I was at the end of my shift and I just didn’t want to turn it over at the blue-line. I was just trying to make a shot and hit the net.
“On the chances, I executed, which is good to see. But I just didn’t have the legs today.”
Despite his two goals -— giving him eight in the playoffs to tie for the league lead — Frattin wasn’t at his best.
“I actually thought Matt had an off-game today,” Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins said. “That’s the danger with that young man. He can be off, but if you give him a little space, he’s going to throw a couple pucks in the net.
“Good on him, because he got some real timely, timely goals for us, and I’m sure he’ll be even better next game.”
Philippe Dupuis, Ryan Hamilton and Jerry D’Amigo had the other goals for Toronto. Ben Scrivens stopped 25 shots for his ninth win of the playoffs.
Brian Rodney, Chris VandeVelde and Magnus Paajarvi replied for Oklahoma City. Danis made 22 saves in defeat, his fourth of the post-season.
Oklahoma City set the pace early with a furious fore-check and outshot Toronto 8-3 in the first 10 minutes of the game.
“Those first few shifts — that was about as hard-hitting hockey as you’re going to get,” Eakins said. “It was much more physical [than the first two games] It was a hard hitting game and a lot of big hits.”
But Toronto withstood the attack thanks to stellar goaltending by Scrivens, and the Marlies got on the board first when at when Dupuis wristed a weak shot from the left faceoff dot that found its way past a screened Danis at 12:35.
“They came out hard and fast — they’re a good road team,” Frattin said. “We took a back seat there for a little while, but we turned it on after that.
“As soon as we get that first goal, they have to change their style and strategy took complement ours, which is fast breaking and the transition game. That’s the biggest thing through the first three games, so there’s going to be a race to get it on Wednesday.”
The teams played a tight-checking second period until they erupted for two goals each in the span of just over four minutes as Toronto took a 3-2 lead heading into the third.
“We played well for about 35 minutes and then they got two quick ones there,” Frattin said. “We turned the page after they got two and then we came out in the third and played our game.
“We made a lot of turnovers that we don’t want to be making next game, because they’ll definitely execute on them.”
Paajarvi made it a 3-3 game 11:56 into the third when he picked up a botched dump-in by Korbinian Holzer, circled into the Marlies zone and snapped a shot over Scrivens’ blocker.
After Frattin’s second goal, Mark Fraser took a tripping penalty and the Barons pulled Danis for the extra attacker. But the move backfired as D’Amigo potted an empty-netter for his seventh of the playoffs.
Monday’s game was a special one for Toronto defenceman Matt Lashoff who played his first at Ricoh since returning from a serious knee injury he suffered just nine games into the regular season.
“I really can’t put it into words,” said Lashoff, who played just his second game of the playoffs. “It’s ben a very arduous season for me with a lot of hard work, a lot of long hours in the gym and on the training table, which is nowhere any player wants to be.
“So for me, getting out there and being able to contribute is huge. It not builds confidence going into the summer, but there’s nothing more fun than playoff hockey. It was killing me not to be able to play.”
Special teams were key for Toronto. The Marlies were clicking at just a 10.6 per cent success rate on the man advantage coming into the game, but scored twice on the power play to go along with D’Amigo’s short-handed goal.
Eakins credited Lashoff for the team’s resurgence with the man advantage.
“Having Matt Lashoff back in there is a huge help,” Eakins said. “When the puck gets back to the point, we know one thing for sure — he’s going to shoot it and not look for a pass. I thought he was excellent.”
Game 4 goes Wednesday night at Ricoh Colesium.
Notes: Marlies right-winger Spencer Abbott, a college free agent signed in March, played his first game of the post-season. ... Toronto’s Nazem Kadri left the game after the first period due to an injury and didn’t return. ... Announced attendance was 7,327.