On Thursday evening, the Manitoba Moose and Toronto Marlies squared off in the third of four-straight matchups from Bell MTS Place. Opening the season with four games against the Maple Leafs’ affiliate, the Moose were able to turn their fortunes around following losses in each of the first two contests of the season, by way of a 4-2 victory.
After jumping out to leads after both first periods to date, Manitoba’s downfall had been sustaining pressure and actually scoring goals in the later stages of the games. Failing to find the twine in the second and third periods thus far was a common theme that head coach Pascal Vincent and the Moose were hoping to nip in the bud.
Thursday’s game saw the all-too-familiar theme of scoring early and leading after 20 minutes. Despite being heavily outplayed in the opening frame, Manitoba was kept in it by timely goal scoring and a sensational goaltending effort by Mikhail Berdin. Stopping all 19 shots he faced in the period, Berdin helped the Moose to an early 1-0 lead despite trailing 19-4 in the shot department through 20 minutes.
Manitoba got its lone goal on the team’s first shot on net. Scoring his first of the season was Moose forward Bobby Lynch, who capitalized on a breakaway pass from Tyler Graovac at 4:24 of the opening frame. The 1-0 lead would last until nearly the midway point of the second period, where Nathan Todd’s second tally of the season gave the home club some breathing room.
A perfectly played two-on-one saw the puck-carrying Graovac draw the Marlies defender tight to him, before dishing the disc cross-ice to Todd. Putting a wrist shot past Andrew D’Agostini five-hole.
It wasn’t until the 16:52 mark that Toronto finally found a way to beat Berdin. On a rush into the Moose zone, Teemu Kivihalme dished the puck outside to Scott Pooley, who then put it back on Kivihalme’s stick for a redirection. The puck was saved by Berdin, but it landed directly onto the stick of Hudson Elynuik, who fired it into the yawning cage, bringing the score to 2-1 through 40 minutes.
Despite maintaining a 2-1 lead, Manitoba remained significantly behind the opposition in terms of shots on net through the game’s first two periods. Heading into the third period, the Marlies were ahead 31-14 in shots. It took until the midway mark of the third for the Moose to regain some breathing room. With Haralds Egle providing a quality screen in front of Toronto’s net, Joona Luoto let a seeing-eye wrist shot go from long range. The puck found its way past D’Agostino and into the net, restoring Manitoba’s two-goal lead with 10:11 to play.
With Cole Perfetti in the box serving a Moose bench minor and D’Agostino on the bench for yet another attacker, the Marlies made it close, with Adam Brooks banking his second of the game off Manitoba defender Leon Gawanke’s skate and into the net. However, with just seconds remaining, Tyler Graovac capped off a 4-2 victory with his third point of the night, flipping a lob shot the length of the ice and into the empty Marlies net.
Making 43 saves on 45 shots against, Mikhail Berdin and the Moose held on for the 4-2 win and improved their record to 1-2-0 through the first three games of the season. Manitoba will look to go for the series split on Friday afternoon, where the two teams will meet for the fourth time in five days in a 4:00 PM matchup.