Nylander Returns as Marlies win Fifth Consecutive Game

Photo Credit: Grand Rapids Griffins / Flickr

It’s was the moment that many Leafs fans have been waiting for, at least for the past few weeks. William Nylander, who has been out for the past month with concussion-like symptoms followed by appendicitis, made his return to the Toronto Marlies lineup tonight and even found a way to get himself back on the scoreboard in a 4-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Surprisingly, this wasn’t a game that the Marlies held total control of. Far from it, actually; they were heavily outshot in the first period, and in their one chance to go up with a man advantage, they did the exact opposite, by allowing Andy Miele to initiate a 2-on-1 rush, which he used to fire a puck past Antoine Bibeau to give the Griffins the lead.

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While the Griffins continued to have a slight edge in control during the second, Toronto started to regain their form as time progressed. Eventually, they were rewarded for it, as TJ Brennan tied the game with this goal that you can’t really see.

Full credit to Nylander on this play for finding Brennan with the long and to the back setup; it’s one of those efforts that would be hard for most, yet one that we expect from Nylander, but also one that you don’t think he’ll pull off in his first game back from illness and injury.

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The Griffins struck back early in the second period with a goal from Anthony Mantha, who beat Bibeau with a sharp wraparound. At this point, it seemed like there was a chance that this could have been one of those rare nights of defeat for the Marlies; that possibility became even more apparent when they were still down with seven minutes to go, even despite Bibeau’s fantastic efforts to keep them alive.

With that said, the team has a habit for late game pushes, and they had another one of those tonight. Justin Holl tied the game after being set up by Jeremy Morn, pushing toward the net with power and stuffing a puck past Thomas McCollum to tie the game up. 

Four minutes later, Zach Hyman picked up his ninth goal of the year to put the Marlies ahead for the first time in the game, and Brendan Leipsic followed with an empty netter to seal off the game.

With the win, the Marlies improve to 36-8-2, giving them a points percentage of 0.804. An overtime loss for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton means that the Marlies are now the AHL’s only team above 0.700 at this point in the season. Their goal differential of +73 is also higher than WBS (+44) and the Texas Stars (+25) combined; the two teams are ranked second and third in the statistic.

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The Marlies now head back into Toronto to take on the Binghamton Senators on Saturday afternoon. Nylander, who finished tonight’s game with two shots and a -1 rating to go with his assist, will not dress, while Garret Sparks is expected to make the jump from the press box to between the pipes tomorrow for the start. Puck drop is at 5:00 PM.

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  • Gary Empey

    2. TOR Brennan, (18) (Nylander, Holl), 12:36

    3. TOR Holl, (4) (Morin, Brennan), 13:38

    3. TOR Hyman, (9) (Arcobello, Valiev), 18:08

    3. TOR Leipsic, (14) (R. Rupert, Brown), 19:00 (EN)

    Bibeau, Antoine (W)

  • Harte of a Lion

    hmmmm Justin Holl… Some Harte of a Lion guy was just discussing what a great pick up he has been for Dubas and the Marlies… We should make a new Clint Eastwood movie series…The D-man With No Name

  • Gary Empey

    it has now come to the point where i’m shocked if the marlies lose and expect them to win every game while i’m baffled if the leafs somehow muster one win every 10 games and expect a loss every game… it’s literally the opposite and i’m 100% ok with it. what a time to be alive.

  • magesticRAGE

    I’ve noticed that Valiev is shooting more, looks like he’s getting comfortable with the league. I see him as a stud top 4 defenseman.

    I wonder how the Marlies would fare against, say, the Canadiens?

  • magesticRAGE

    We were sitting behind the Marlies bench for this one and even though they weren’t playing as sharply as they were capable of, the mood was even keeled, very business like. That was the most impressive thing about this game. That and the fact Bibeau was rock solid between the pipes.

  • magesticRAGE

    holl really impressed me this game. does he always jump into the play like that? he was responsible for 2 goals (brennan’s and his own). he jumped deep into the offensive zone. he looked great in this game excluding that one goal against where nylander gave up the puck. whatever, we still won!