Sunday night was a statement game for Viktor Stalberg.
The rookie forward, who was sent down from the Toronto Maple Leafs last week, scored two goals and a pair of assists as the Toronto Marlies downed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-2 at Ricoh Coliseum.
Strong play by the forwards at both ends of the ice helped Toronto (5-3-1-1) win its second game in a row, and Stalberg was a big part of that.
“He’s come down in a great frame of mind and that’s important, it’s hard to do,” Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins said.
“You get sent down and sometimes guys think it’s going to be real easy and sometimes you’re sulking. He’s had neither in his game.”
Christian Hanson scored twice, including the game-winner, and Mike Zigomanis had three helpers as the top line put up nine points on the night.
“That’s why they’re the top line,” Eakins said. “There’s high expectations for all three of those young men and they certainly produced.”
Hanson, one of the Leafs’ last cuts in the pre-season, and Stalberg, with just one assist in eight NHL games, looked to prove a point in this contest.
“[Stalberg]’s not dumb,” Eakins said. “He looked up there tonight and saw [Leafs General Manager] Brian Burke sitting there and he wanted to send him a message.
“And that’s just what he did.”
James Reimer stopped 34 shots for the win in his first start since returning from the Leafs.
Tim Wallace and Ryan Bayda contributed offensively for the Penguins (5-3-1-1), who continue to have trouble scoring goals. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has only managed five goals in its past four games.
Brad Thiessen, making his second start of the year, had 24 saves in defeat.
The game-winner, Hanson’s second of the night, came at 14:02 of third period.
After Stalberg carried the puck through the neutral zone and onto the left wing, his short pass was snapped home by the fellow first-year, putting Toronto ahead 3-2.
Stalberg would add an empty netter with two seconds remaining to seal the deal.
A busy second period saw Toronto lose and regain the lead before ending up tied 2-2 through 40 minutes.
Bayda and Stalberg scored almost identical partial breakaway goals from the right wing, and their tallies were preceded by Wallace’s marker for the Penguins, initially tying the game at one.
For Stalberg, it was his first career professional goal. Zigomanis assisted on the play, making it the fourth time in five games this year that he has had a multi-point game.
The Toronto native, who has played 189 career games including 22 for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, has 10 assists in just four AHL games.
Toronto was outshot 12-6 in the opening period but led the game 1-0 thanks to Hanson’s power-play goal.
There were a pair of fights on the night, contested by Aaron Boogaard and Deryk Engelland of the Penguins squaring off against Toronto’s Phil Oreskovic and Robert Slaney.
NOTES: Tyler Bozak, Alex Foster, Darryl Boyce, Andre Deveaux and Richard Greenop were scratches for the Marlies. Bozak was sidelined for the second consecutive game with the flu … Between Reimer, Joey MacDonald, Adam Munro and Andrew Engelage, the Marlies had four different goaltenders see action in October … Following Sunday afternoon’s game, the Marlies head out on a six-game road trip that begins and ends in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters. The reason for the lengthy trip is because the Royal Winter Fair will be running at the Ricoh Coliseum from Nov. 6-15.