Magnus Hellberg has enjoyed a wonderful February. The big goalie won his fifth straight game this month, as Milwaukee picked up a 3-1 victory over the Marlies in Saturday matinee action.
Hellberg stopped 19 shots to improve his February GAA to 1.31 and save percentage to .950.
The Admirals got the all-important first goal early as Mark Van Guilder and Anthony Bitetto assisted on Brad Winchester’s second goal of the year 1:46 into the game.
MVG took the puck to the left circle from behind the net and fed it to Bitetto at the point. Bitetto avoided a Toronto defender and fed Winchester who’s shot from the slot beat former Admirals goalie Drew MacIntyre stick side.
The Marlies would keep the pressure on, but Hellberg stood tall to neutralize two Milwaukee mistakes late in the period.
Hellberg made a great save on 3-on-1 rush with about five minutes left. He was able to stick out his right pad and rob Ryan Hamilton to keep the Ads up.
He outdid himself less than a minute later with an incredible left glove save. Joe Colborne had a lot of time to get his shot up, but Hellberg, who was stationed at the far post, adjusted to make the great diving catch.
The Ads got their first power play attempt at 13:37 of the second, when Jesse Blacker stuck out his left leg to trip Mattias Ekholm. It was a dirty play, but Ekholm was OK.
The Admirals would fail to score with the man advantage, but the offense put forth a nice effort for the period, outshooting Toronto 16 to five. They were rewarded by Daniel Bang’s eventual game-winner at 16:28.
Following another big save by Hellberg, Bang stole the puck at the blue line and scored stick side on a one-on-one breakaway. The unassisted goal was his first since Nov. 24th (18 games) and his fourth of the year.
Beck was held on a breakaway less than a minute later to set up another power play, but the Ads failed to extend their lead.
At 8:15 of the final period, Spencer Abbott made things interesting with a wrist shot that clanged in off the left post to bring Toronto within one.
The Marlies would only register five other shots in the period, however, all of which were swallowed up by Hellberg.
On a power play, with MacIntyre on the bench, Winchester assisted on a Taylor Beck empty-netter to seal the win with 49 seconds to go.
With their fifth win in their last seven games, the Admirals were able to put Thursday’s 7-1 embarrassment at Lake Erie behind them and get back to two-out-of-three hockey.
Scott Ford wasn’t in the lineup this afternoon, as he’s out with an unspecified lower body injury. His return is unknown and his MRI will be Monday.
The Ads played a disciplined game Saturday allowing just two power play opportunities and snuffing out both. They outshot Toronto 28-20 overall.
With 54 points, Milwaukee is still third in the Midwest Division and three points behind Chicago for the eighth spot in the West.
The pattern held true again for Milwaukee as Hellberg got the win in net after a loss with Smitty between the pipes. The team did start faster than usual this time, which meant a lot as the game progressed.
It’s also interesting to note that Smith faced 39 shots Thursday, while Hellberg faced half of that today. The difference is, Hellberg made two huge saves he probably shouldn’t have to keep the Ads ahead early, while Smith’s let a few softies in here and there.
Do you start Hellberg again tomorrow? Recent history has shown Magnus can stay hot when you give him the ice time.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of the “two out of three” idea when Dean Evason first mentioned it, but so far it’s been going pretty well. Milwaukee’s displayed an impressively short memory and that’s important when you’re in a rush to make the playoffs. What’s your take?