With the post-season out of reach, the Marlies gave their fans a glimpse of playoff type hockey Sunday in a 6-5 win over the Rochester Americans.
The Marlies took an intense, seesaw game over their division rivals, winning their first game at home in more than a month.
"We play these guys a lot, and they play a hard, physical game," said Ryan Hamilton, who scored his seventh goal in as many games. "Those are the ingredients for this type of game, and we don't necessarily like each other. But it makes it exciting for the fans and exciting for us too."
"It seems like every time we play Rochester we get those crazy games with a bunch of goals. It's a coach's nightmare, but thankfully we got more goals than them tonight."
It's the third time this season the teams have played to 6-5 score, with the Marlies taking two of them.
Aaron Voros, Marcel Mueller, Alex Foster, Mike Brennan and Justin Hodgman also scored for the Marlies, while Ben Scrivens made 31 saves in goal.
Anthony Luciani had a pair of goals for the Americans, who also got singles from T.J. Fast, Colby Robak and Michael Duco.
Chris Taylor chipped in with three assists, and Marc Cheverie stopped 18 shots in net for Rochester.
The Marlies' (36-32-11) previous victory at Ricoh Coliseum was back on March 8, a 3-2 shootout win over the Rockford IceHogs. Since then they'd lost seven straight at home, going 2-7-2 overall, until Saturday's win.
The victory also broke the team's five-game winless streak and is the Marlies' first win in the month of April.
Although his team had been eliminated from the playoffs, Marlies coach Dallas Eakins made sure his players were up for the game.
"It was a game that means nothing," said Hodgman, who scored in his first game back after missing 15 due to injury. "But Dallas came in and reminded us that even though both teams are out of the playoffs, you're always being evaluated."
After the game, Eakins said he approached this game like he would any other, and wanted his players too as well.
"This is a team sport," he said. "If you let players start playing like individuals out there, then you've damaged what you're trying to build."
"Even though we're out of the playoffs, it's not a time for them to improvise and take on a more selfish mode. It's always about teamwork, and that will never change as long as I'm here.
The game featured a fire wagon style of play for the 7,209 fans in attendance, with dramatic momentum shifts throughout the afternoon.
The Marlies opened the scoring 3:25 into the game when Voros ripped a slapshot from the high slot past Cheverie for his third goal of the season.
Mueller made it 2-0 at 8:53 when he picked off a low shot by Hodgman, curled the puck to his forehand and slipped it into an open net for his 11th.
But Rochester (31-39-9) came back to tie the game before the period was finished with two players getting their first goals of the season.
Fast scored at 14:54 on the power play when he tapped a rebound into an open net for an easy goal, his first in 12 games with Rochester.
Then Luciani, in only his second game with the Americans, scored with just three seconds left before the intermission, snapping a shot over Scrivens' shoulder on a 2-on-1 break.
In the second period, Toronto restored its two-goal lead with a pair of quick goals by linemates Foster and Hamilton at 4:52 and 6:04.
But the momentum once again swung to Rochester, who roared back just over a minute later with two goals 11 seconds apart by Robak and Duco.
Toronto took a 5-4 lead into the dressing room when Brennan's point shot sneaked past a screened Cheverie with 10 seconds left in the period.
The game got physical in the second with six fighting majors and a pair of game misconducts.
Hodgman gave Toronto its third two-goal lead of the game at 7:21 of the third period.
Luciani's second of the afternoon got Rochester to within one with 13.2 seconds left in the game, but the Marlies were able to hold on for the win.
Toronto will play its final game of the season Sunday evening at home against the Abbotsford Heat.