Adam Brooks scored the tiebreaking goal 3:18 into the third period and Toronto held on for a 4-3 win over Lehigh Valley in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday afternoon.
The Marlies take their 1-0 series lead into Game 2 on Sunday (4 p.m. ET).
The top two teams in the AHL during the regular season played a series-opener worthy of the hype. Toronto raced out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Miro Aaltonen, but the Phantoms responded as Philippe Myers scored at 16:04 of the first period and Tyrell Goulbourne buried a feed from Corban Knight 35 seconds into the second period.
Lehigh Valley took its first lead of the game at 12:57, as Chris Conner scored his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Toronto tied it back up when captain Ben Smith scored late in the middle frame, and Brooks’s second goal of the playoffs stood up as the game-winner.
Garret Sparks (7-2) made 26 saves for the win, the Marlies’ 11th straight in postseason play on home ice.
Alex Lyon (6-2), who allowed four goals on 188 shots during the second round vs. Charlotte, allowed four goals on 32 shots in Game 1.
Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
N1-Toronto Marlies vs. A1-Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Game 1 – Sat., May 19 – TORONTO 4, Lehigh Valley 3
Game 2 – Sun., May 20 – Lehigh Valley at Toronto, 4:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 23 – Toronto at Lehigh Valley, 7:05
Game 4 – Fri., May 25 – Toronto at Lehigh Valley, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., May 26 – Toronto at Lehigh Valley, 7:05
*Game 6 – Mon., May 28 – Lehigh Valley at Toronto, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., May 30 – Lehigh Valley at Toronto, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern