After having eight days off, Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins wasn’t sure if his players would play like a rested team or a rusty team.
Turns out he had nothing to worry about as Toronto dominated the Oklahoma City Barons en route to a 5-0 victory Thursday night in Game 1 of the AHL Western Conference finals.
From the first shift, the Marlies got off to a blazing start and left-wingers Marcel Mueller and Nicolas Deschamps each had a goal and an assist in the first period to set the tone.
“The start was huge for us,” Eakins said. “It actually started right off the first shift. We were able to catch them sleeping, and we never let up. I thought our forwards did a great job of getting in on their defence and being physical.”
Ben Scrivens made 31 saves and improved to 8-1 in the playoffs with his second shutout.
“Our execution was excellent,” Eakins said. “We had practised very hard and had scaled them back to make sure they were ready. The young men came out flying tonight.”
Each line contributed for Toronto in giving Oklahoma City its worst loss since a 7-0 defeat to Texas on the opening night of the season.
Five different players scored for Toronto and four players had multiple points. Philippe Dupuis and Nazem Kadri each had two assists.
Oklahoma City had chances with six power-play opportunities. However, Toronto turned every one of them away and has now killed its last 39 power-play chances against its opponents.
“That’s the standard we’ve set for these guys,” Eakins said. “It’s the standard that our penalty-kill unit stands by. Every single one of them firmly believes they should never be scored on. What has helped is we actually force other teams on their power play to defend because of how aggressive we are.”
Toronto also was able to get Joe Colborne back into the scoring column. The forward scored in the third period for his first goal in 30 games.
“He told (assistant coach) Derek King at the bench that it felt like a 200-pound weight had been lifted off his shoulder,” Eakins said. “Everybody was excited about that.”
Right-winger Matt Frattin and defenseman Jake Gardiner also scored for the Marlies.
Oklahoma City goaltender Yann Danis had 27 saves in front of 2,596 fans at the Cox Convention Center.
Toronto knows to expect a better effort from Oklahoma City on Friday night.
“Any time you can put up five goals, it’s a good feeling,” Scrivens said. “Hopefully we’re in their heads a little bit. They know we can score. We were firing on all cylinders tonight, but we need to make sure these wins count and come out with the same intensity.”
Game 2 is Friday night in Oklahoma City.