It wasn’t exactly textbook hockey, but the 67’s used a Tyler Toffoli hat trick to power their way past a stubborn Sarnia Sting team that refused to go quietly into the night.
It was a tentative start for both teams, and the sellout Civic Centre crowd of 9,862 didn’t have much to cheer about until Toffoli broke the ice with his first of three on the night midway through the second period of Ottawa's 3-2 victory Friday.
“We really wanted to have a good start to the weekend,” said Toffoli, who hopped on a flight back from London Thursday night after competing in the Subway Super Series against Team Russia.
“I’ve been shooting the puck a lot more lately, and I was fortunate to get three (Friday night). All lines are firing and we’re excited and really happy with what we’ve got going right now.”
Toffoli showed his strength on the opening goal, working his way off the boards with Sarnia centre Kale Kerbashian draped all over his back, snapping a low shot that beat Sting goaltender John Cullen from the left faceoff dot.
The 67’s had plenty of chances to extend their lead in the second period, outshooting the Sting 15-6. The 67’s held a 32-24 edge in shots overall.
But the game was still up for grabs in the third, and Sarnia found some life early in the period, with Dean Pawlaczyk drawing the score even 1-1 2:55 into the third.
“They did a good job of jamming us on the power play, and I thought we got a lot of pucks at the net, but we just needed to finish a little bit better, and (Cullen) made a couple of really good stops,” said 67’s coach Chris Byrne.
Toffoli put the 67’s back on top five minutes later with his second of the game, a wicked rising shot that beat Cullen stick side.
Sarnia drew even again on a nice individual effort from Craig Hottot, who fired a long-range shot at Petr Mrazek, then beat Cody Ceci and Marc Zanetti to the puck, jamming the rebound home.
But Toffoli again had an answer, potting his hat trick goal 90 seconds later for the game-winner.
Toffoli steamed through the slot in time to get his stick on a hard centring pass from Shane Prince, beating Cullen on the short side.
A pair of late penalties, including a brief 15-second 5-on-3, took the wind out of Sarnia’s sails as the Sting pressed late for another comeback.
NOTES: Newly acquired defenceman Jake Cardwell played his first game for Ottawa on a pairing with Travis Gibbons after coming over in a deal with Sudbury that sent Ryan Hanes to the Wolves.
Jon Carnevale (concussion-like symptoms), Steven Janes (shoulder) and Ryan Shipley (ankle) all missed the game with injury.