The Toronto Marlies were playing for the first time since May 1. That didn’t stop them from getting ahead of the Wolves and their struggling penalty kill.
The Marlies scored the first three goals and beat the Wolves 5-2 Friday at Allstate Arena in Game 1 of the teams’ best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal. Christian Hanson and Michael Davies scored for the Wolves and Jake Allen had 30 saves. But it wasn’t enough for the Wolves to avoid their second loss in four home playoff games.
Game 2 is Saturday night, and the Wolves will be hoping to get off to a better start.
Power-play goals from Trevor Smith and Peter Holland in the first period gave Toronto a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. The Marlies showed no ill effects from their long layoff after sweeping Milwaukee in the first round. The Wolves were playing for the first time since Sunday.
“They were coming at us and we just needed to stay within our systems,” Davies said. “They’re a really good team. You can’t give them much.”
But the Wolves’ penalty kill is having issues. During the regular season, they killed 85.6 percent, good for fourth in the league. Entering Friday, the Wolves were at 70.4 percent in the playoffs, and they only killed 3 of 5 chances against Toronto.
“We’ve just got to stay out of the box and it’s a little bit different game,” Davies said.
Toronto built on its lead in the second when Greg McKegg scored 5:02 into the period on a wrist shot from just inside the left circle.
The Wolves, however, got back into the game. Hanson’s goal with 9:56 left in the second got them on the board, and Davies’ score 17:26 into the period cut the deficit to 3-2.
Allen stopped Jerry D’Amigo on a breakaway with 30 seconds left in the period. But with 16:07 remaining in the third, Carter Ashton scored, restoring Toronto’s two-goal lead.
Today’s Balmoral line
Handicapped by Tom Krish
Post Time 7:10 p.m.
Best Bet: Lazy Lizard (4th)
1st | $2,900, pace, claiming, mile
PP Horse, Driver Last 3 Odds
1 Con Game,*, De Magee 8-6-5 2-1
2 Major Degree,*, Curtin 5-6-1 5-2
3 Beach’s Nick,*, Warren 5-3-7 7-2
4 Timewell,*, De Long 3-1-7 9-2
5 Western Slammer.,*, Leonard 2-1-8 5-1
8 Five Cougars A,*, Carpenter 8-5-1 6-1
6 Rocket Dog,*, Hiteman 7-7-3 8-1
7 Madey Mac,*, Anderson 4-2-4 12-1
Con Game cannot go lower: great draw: breakthrough spot. Major Degree won two back: post keeps him in the vanguard. Beach’s Nick often a factor: deserves a long look.