Charlotte and Toronto set the stage for the Eastern Conference Finals series with a hard-fought battle in Game 1 on Friday night.
Mason Marchment redirected home a pass from Timothy Liljegren in the opening minute of the third period and the Marlies held on for a 2-1 victory at Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte.
The Marlies improved their playoff record to 8-0, becoming the ninth team in AHL history to open a postseason with at least eight straight wins.
Kasimir Kaskisuo stopped 26 shots in the win, improving his save percentage to .950 in his eight playoff starts.
Charlotte held a 13-7 advantage in shots on goal during a scoreless opening period, but the Marlies got the first goal of the series during a 5-on-3 power play at 5:50 of the second. Dmytro Timashov took a pass from Jeremy Bracco and wired home his third goal of the playoffs to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
The Checkers came back at 12:07 and tied the game as Haydn Fleury wristed a shot from the slot past Kaskisuo. Fleury was in the Charlotte lineup for the first time since Mar. 30 after spending the last seven weeks in the NHL, a stint that included nine Stanley Cup Playoff games with Carolina.
Marchment’s game-winner, his third goal in the last two games, came 57 seconds into the final period.
Toronto won for the 14th time in its last 16 road games, and improved to 11-0 over the last two postseasons in games when the series is tied.
Alex Nedeljkovic (6-2) finished with 26 saves for Charlotte, which saw its six-game winning streak come to an end.
Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
A1-Charlotte Checkers vs. N3-Toronto Marlies
Game 1 – Fri., May 17 – Toronto 2, CHARLOTTE 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 18 – Toronto at Charlotte, 6:00, AHLTV
Game 3 – Tue., May 21 – Charlotte at Toronto, 7:00, AHLTV
Game 4 – Thu., May 23 – Charlotte at Toronto, 7:00, AHLTV, TSN2
*Game 5 – Fri., May 24 – Charlotte at Toronto, 7:00, AHLTV, TSN2
*Game 6 – Sun., May 26 – Toronto at Charlotte, 7:00, AHLTV
*Game 7 – Tue., May 28 – Toronto at Charlotte, 7:00, AHLTV
*if necessary… All times Eastern