A break for the holidays didn’t slow down Ben Scrivens and the Toronto Marlies.
Joe Colborne and Keith Aucoin scored first-period goals, Scrivens made 19 saves and the Marlies defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 3-2 in American Hockey League action Wednesday afternoon.
“I liked the way we played,” Marlies coach Dallas Eakins said. “I was nervous before the game coming off the [holiday] break. We hadn’t practised in a few days and the guys probably ate some [unhealthy] food yesterday, like I did.
“But we were physical early and that got us into the game, and the one thing that really showed up was our skill. I liked our goaltending, I liked our defensive awareness and I liked our power play.”
Scrivens lost his shutout bid late in the third period when Frederic St-Denis’ point shot was deflected at 18:12. Nathan Beaulieu scored from behind the net at 19:59 to round out the scoring.
Mike Kostka had the other goal for the Marlies, who won their third consecutive game and for the ninth time in 11 contests. Matt Frattin added three assists before an AHL-record indoor crowd of 18,800 at Air Canada Centre, the home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I was just trying to make some plays, use my linemates and get pucks at the net,” Frattin said. “They weren’t the prettiest goals, but we got lucky bounces and we got a 3-0 lead.
“It felt like we didn’t close out the game the way we wanted to, but we got the win and we’re geared up to start the second half of the season after the Christmas break.”
Toronto improved to 17-9-2 to take sole possession of first in the AHL’s North Division. The Marlies also moved to within one point of the Charlotte Checkers for top spot in the Western Conference.
“Playing in [Air Canada Centre] with a big crowd is a big opportunity for our players,” Eakins said. “Ricoh Coliseum is our home rink, but if things go south (with the lockout) at the NHL level, maybe we’ll play here again.”
Hamilton lost its fifth straight game to fall to 10-15-3. Bulldogs goalie Cedrick Desjardins stopped 30 shots in a losing effort.
The Marlies led 2-0 after the first and 3-0 heading into the third.
Colborne opened the scoring with his second goal of the season — and first in 18 games. He went hard to the net and tucked Paul Ranger’s rebound past Desjardins at 4:48 of the first.
Colborne, drafted 16th overall by the Boston Bruins in 2008, was traded to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 18, 2011, as part of the deal that sent Tomas Kaberle to Boston.
Aucoin made it 2-0 when he scored three seconds after Hamilton’s Jared Tinordi was sent off for tripping. Frattin won a faceoff in the offensive zone back to Kostka, who quickly passed the puck to Aucoin on the left point. His slapshot went past a screened Desjardins at 14:08.
Toronto went up 3-0 during a two-man advantage late in the second. Nazem Kadri fed Kostka at the top of the right faceoff circle and the Marlies defenceman blasted a shot past Desjardins at 19:04.
Hamilton’s Zach Stortini was given a match penalty and a game misconduct for a check to the head of Kadri at 14:51 and Antonie Corbin was sent off for cross-checking at 18:06.
Toronto went 2-for-7 on the power play while Hamilton was 0-for-3.
The Marlies travel to Grand Rapids for two games against the Griffins on Friday and Saturday, while the Bulldogs host the St. John’s IceCaps on Friday.