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Gibson, Frattin key to Marlies playoff success

The Marlies took a 2-0 series lead after a big 5-2 win at Ricoh Coliseum.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After opening the Calder Cup Playoffs with a 7-4 win over the Grand Rapids on home ice, the Marlies bounced back after a slow start in Game 2 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

After an early Pulkkinen goal, just 40 seconds into the game, the Marlies began to reel, falling 7-1 in shots before a second goal set them back again.

Despite the set back, and continued pressure, Chris Gibson stayed calm, and kept the game close.

His team responded, with Matt Frattin leading the way.

Frattin, who was among the AHL's leaders in goals scored percentage in the AHL, scored 40% of the team's goals when he was on the ice this season.

His two goals, one a beautiful play off the wing with a quick snapshot, tied the game, as the Marlies clawed back and gained the lead in shots.

With the game tied, he earned the invisible assist on the back breaker, providing the screen for TJ Brennan on the PP.

And despite the lopsided 5-2 final, if it weren't for Gibson's performance on several penalty kills, including a 5-minute major to Viktor Loov, and Matt Frattin's continued AHL dominance, the game could have easily gotten out of hand early.

Instead, the Marlies head back to Grand Rapids with a 2-0 series lead, needing just a lone victory to secure the series.

"When he's skating he pushes defensemen back and for him the physical side is an extension of that," said head coach Gord Dineen of Frattin. "And his shot is second to none in our league."

Good said Frattin has seized the moment and led this Marlies team.

"He's been a great contributor all year, particularly in these playoffs," Dineen said, adding that he's fortunate Frattin isn't in the NHL.

But Dineen acknowledges Gibson kept them in the game, as he has all year.

"They had a real net front presence in front of him and boy did he fight through the screens," Dineen said of his starting goalie.

Few had Gibson, a former top pick for the Los Angeles Kings, pegged to be leading the team in the playoffs.

Heading into training camp, Garret Sparks was the consensus goalie.

When the regular season got going, rookie Antoine Bibeau grabbed the reigns.

Yet come playoff time, it's Gibson who is the unquestionable starter, even after a shoddy Game 1 victory.

"Every second chance opportunity he was there battling on those pucks," Dineen said. "Kudos to Gibby, he kept his composure and could have got upset down 2-0 but he stuck with it."

The players were quick to praise Gibson too.

"It speaks for itself, Gibby's been unbelievable, he's a great goalie whether we're down 7-0 or up 7-0, he's going to give you everything he has," said Brennan. "You know in those crucial moments he's already focused and dialled in."

Brennan points to the 5-on-3 as a special moment.

"He was down and out and still ended up making a save on one of their best players (Pulkkinen)," Brennan said. "It's unbelievable to see that and having that back there, especially as a defensemen, it gives me trust to do my job and makes me do my job even better."

"He's been a huge part of our success," Brennan said.

Defensemen Tom Nilsson called the moment chaotic, but credited Gibson for helping out the defensemen.

What does Gibson credit the success to? His new haircut?

"No comment," he said, laughing.

Game 3 goes Wednesday in Grand Rapids at 7 p.m. on Leafs TV.