Dallas Eakins used some simple math to sum up how important special teams were for the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday.
“Any time you get three on the power play and a shortie, you usually win the game,” said the Marlies’ head coach. “We’re finding ways to win every night.”
Jerry D’Amigo opened the scoring shorthanded and Keith Aucoin, Joe Colborne and Ryan Hamilton had power-play goals as Toronto shut out the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-0 in American Hockey League action.
Aucoin and Greg McKegg also scored at even strength. Toronto went 3 for 6 with the man advantage and denied all four of Hamilton’s power-play chances.
The Marlies won for the 11th time in 14 contests to improve to 20-9-3. Toronto padded its lead in the Western Conference and moved to within two points of the first-place Syracuse Crunch in the AHL’s overall standings.
“It goes back to last year, fostering expectations,” Eakins said. “We expect to win every game.
“Our goal is to be No. 1 in goals scored, No. 1 in goals against, No. 1 on the power play, No. 1 on the penalty kill. Are these realistic goals? Maybe not, but that’s the standard we’re aiming for.”
Colborne, who scored for the second time in four games after going 18 contests without a goal, added two assists while Aucoin also had a helper for a three-point game. Toronto defenceman Mike Kostka chipped in with two assists.
“We’re coming together as a group,” Aucoin said. “Guys are stepping up, it might not always be on the scoresheet but they’re giving us energy and having good shifts every time they go over the boards.”
Hamilton lost its third consecutive game — and for the eighth time in nine outings — to remain in last place in the AHL at 11-18-3. Bulldogs goalie Cedrick Desjardins blocked 13-of-19 shots for the loss.
Marlies netminder Ben Scrivens faced only 14 shots for the shutout victory, and was at his sharpest during a 5-on-3 advantage for the Bulldogs midway through the second period.
“You never want to say a shutout was easy,” Scrivens said. “Hamilton is a good team that’s struggling to find their identity right now. They’re going through injuries and trying to figure it out.”
The Marlies led 2-0 after the first period and were fully in control with a 5-0 advantage through 40 minutes.
D’Amigo opened the scoring at 10:10 of the first period, just seven seconds after Aucoin was penalized for cross-checking. Greg Scott won a battle along the left-wing boards and found D’Amigo all alone in front, and the Marlies winger fired a one-timer past Desjardins for Toronto’s second short-handed goal of the season.
“Whenever D’Amigo and Scott go out, even on the penalty kill, there’s a good chance we’ll score,” Eakins said. “It was a big goal for Jerry and the rest of the team.”
Four minutes later, Aucoin made it 2-0 when he whacked a rebound past Desjardins on the power play at 14:15.
“I saw Colborne’s shot hit the goalpost and I was lucky enough to get my stick on the rebound,” Aucoin said.
McKegg converted a pass from Nicolas Deschamps to make it 3-0 at 1:47 of the second period, and Colborne and Hamilton scored power-play goals at 10:41 and 15:27, respectively, to put the game out of reach.
Aucoin rounded out the scoring with a wrist shot from the slot that eluded Desjardins at 16:23 of the third period.
The Bulldogs host the Rockford IceHogs on Friday and the Marlies welcome the IceHogs on Saturday.