The Toronto Maple Leafs must be pleased to see two of their top prospects thriving during the NHL lockout.
Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri each had three points for the Toronto Marlies en route to a 4-3 win Saturday over the Rochester Americans in American Hockey League action.
Gardiner, who left the game after the second period due to a head injury, had a pair of power-play goals, while Kadri had the opening goal and continued his torrid scoring streak.
Gardiner’s two goals were his eighth and ninth of the season to lead the team. They also put Gardiner second among AHL defencemen in goals, tied with Rochester’s T.J. Brennan and behind Oklahoma City Barons’ rookie Justin Schultz who has 11.
“He had a great game and provided some big offence for us — goals at real good times,” said Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. “We’d like to see Jake be a power-play guy at the (NHL) level.
“He’s taken on that role here and now he’s getting rewarded on the power play.”
Kadri has six goals on the season after going goal-less — with just three assists — in his first nine games. He has scored in three straight games and has 18 points in his past 12, putting him one point behind Keith Aucoin for the Marlies’ lead in scoring.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work off the ice as I have on the ice,” Kadri said. “It’s nice to see it pay off. I’ve been buying into the system. I’ve been doing everything that I possibly can to make myself better. It seems like I’m starting to get the luck of the draw lately. But, by all means, I have to continue producing.”
The Marlies looked like they were going to have an easy night, building a 4-0 lead midway through the second period. But the Americans scored three unanswered goals, including one in the final minute, as they made a push for the comeback.
“We hung on for the win and that’s the important thing,” said goaltender Ben Scrivens. “Endings like that, we’ll learn from. The biggest thing is we got the win and we found a way to hang on. We’ll watch video and we’ll learn from the mistakes we did make.”
Ryan Hamilton also scored for Toronto (13-8-1). Scrivens made 34 saves for his eighth win.
Jonathan Parker had two goals and Luke Adam had the other for Rochester (10-9-2). Connor Knapp, playing just his fourth game of the season, stopped 25 shots in defeat.
Toronto has now won four in a row and has taken all four games from Rochester this season.
Toronto opened the scoring with two quick goals in the opening six minutes of the game and took that 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Kadri took a pass from Gardiner at the side of the Rochester goal and banked a backhand shot off an Americans’ defenceman that deflected past Knapp two-and-a-half minutes into the game.
Hamilton gave Toronto a 2-0 lead a little more than two minutes later when he took a similar pass from Keith Aucoin, in almost the same spot Kadri did, and shovelled a backhand shot past Knapp.
It was Hamilton’s eighth goal of the season.
“The earlier the better now,” Eakins said. “Teams want to play their system and want to settle into it. If you get ahead of them early, they have to come out of their system. Usually, that means you’re going to get even more chances.
“It’s something we strive for — we want to come out of the gate hard.”
Toronto doubled its lead midway through the second period with a pair of power-play goals 23 seconds apart.
The first came on a 4-on-3 power-play, when Kostka worked the puck around to Kadri who passed to Gardiner as the defenceman was charging into the slot. Gardiner then one-timed a shot past Knapp on his blocker side.
Then with Kevin Porter off for charging, Gardiner got his second of the night off the faceoff. Aucoin won the draw to Kadri who passed to Gardiner on the right-hand side. Gardiner then snapped a shot short side over Knapp’s glove.
Rochester finally got on the board at 13:44 of the second, when Parker, playing in just his fifth game, snuck a weak shot from the side of the goal through Scrivens, who was hugging the post.
Parker got the Americans to within two goals with his second of the night at 12:23 of the third period. Kevin Sundher made a backhand pass, as he was going behind the net, out in front of the net to Parker who quickly one-timed the puck past Scrivens.
Rochester made it a one-goal game when Adam scored with 56 seconds left, but that’s as close as the Americans would come.
“I was just in (the dressing room) watching the last couple of minutes,” Eakins said. “When the goalie gets pulled, we have certain things we want to do and we were really out of sync, so that will be a good learning experience. It’ll be something we’ll go over in video tomorrow, because if we’re up a goal or two tomorrow, we want to all be on the same page.”
Notes: Toronto has the second-best home record in the league at 7-1-1 behind the Binghamton Senators who are one win better...Announced attendance was 7,137.