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Marlies fail to take first in North Division with loss

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The Canadian Press
1/26/2013 7:55:20 PM
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TORONTO -- Tim Connolly isn't happy with his demotion to the Toronto Marlies. But he isn't showing it, nor is he playing like it.

The 31-year-old had the lone goal for the Toronto Marlies as they missed a chance to move into first place in the North Division after losing 3-1 to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in American Hockey League action Saturday.

Connolly was demoted to the Marlies during the Maple Leafs' training camp in mid-January. He has three goals in three games since he was sent down.

"I'm just trying to stay positive, as a player and as a person," said Connolly. "That's my main focus."

Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins has been impressed with Connolly's attitude.

"I really commend Tim because, in reality, it's not a thing where a player can come in here and flick a switch," said Eakins. "Here's a guy who's been in the NHL since he was 18 years old. Then he suddenly clears waivers, he's here, and he's a high-profile player.

"There's always a mourning period, there just is. But interesting thing is I've seen no mourning from him. He's come in and been excellent. And I think that says a lot about Tim Connolly's character and the way he's handled this difficult, personal situation."

Connolly is an 11-year NHL veteran (697 games played) who had never played in the AHL since his pro career began in 1999 after being drafted fifth overall by the New York Islanders.

"He's been nothing but professional," Eakins said. "He has come in, worked hard in practice, bought in to what we're trying to do here, been helpful with our young forwards, and we're slowly working him into what we do off the ice in the weight room and with our conditioning."

Connolly said Maple Leafs management has told him nothing in terms of what he needs to work on to get back to with the big club.

"You have to ask them," he said.

Eakins is giving Connolly every chance to get his game back, having him centre the Marlies' top line, run the power play and kill penalties.

"It's what I used to get in the NHL -- it's what I'm accustomed to," Connolly said. "The more I play, the better I feel."

Riley Holzapfel, Paul Thompson and Adam Payerl scored for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (22-18-3). Jeff Zatkoff made 27 saves for the win.

Mark Owuya stopped 30 shots in defeat for the Marlies (23-13-4).

Toronto is now 2-3-1 in their past eight games. The Marlies remain second in the North Division, one point behind the Abbotsford Heat who lost 5-4 earlier Saturday to the Charlotte Checkers.

"(Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) did what we wanted to accomplish," Connolly said. "They through pucks at the net and crashed for rebounds. In the first periodawe outplayed them, but in the second period they through pucks at the net, simplified the game and took the momentum over.

"In the third period, that's what we really wanted to focus on -- driving up the tempo, getting pucks to the net with traffic."

The teams went scoreless in the first period, with Toronto outshooting the Penguins 12-8.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton owned the Marlies in the second period, outshooting Toronto 19-3 and getting on the board first with Holzapfel's 13th goal of the season.

Toronto drew even in the third on a 4-on-3 power play when Connolly floated a wrist shot from just inside the blue-line that found its way past a screened Zatkoff.

But less than a minute later, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton got that goal back. Gardiner gave the puck away at his own blue-line to Thompson whose high wrist shot was flubbed by Owuya.

The Penguins took a two-goal lead at 15:32 on the power-play. Payerl's initial shot off the rush was stopped by Owuya, but Payerl kept charging to the net and whacked in the rebound before the Marlies could clear it.

Toronto pulled Owuya with about two minutes to play but couldn't score with the extra attacker.

Notes: Tom Kostopoulos, who signed with the Penguins this week, is the franchise's all-time leader in games played (319), goals (97), assists (150) and points (247)aAnnounced attendance was 7,851aThe Marlies were averaging 7,138 fans per game, fourth in the AHL.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins (Photo: TSN)

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(Photo: TSN)
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