TORONTO -- The Toronto Marlies and St. John's IceCaps are two teams heading in opposite directions, but you wouldn't know it judging by Saturday's result.
Josh Lunden, Eric O'Dell and Ben Maxwell each scored in the shootout for St. John's as the IceCaps beat the Marlies 4-3.
Toronto is going to the American Hockey League playoffs, while the IceCaps will miss the post-season. The Marlies clinched the North Division on Friday with a 4-1 win over the Rochester. St. John's, meanwhile, sits last in the Atlantic Division and will miss the post-season after winning their division in 2011-12.
"These games for us, we want to make sure we finish on a strong note," said IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge. "We want to make sure the details in our game are here and roll into next season.
"We'll have a chunk of this group back ... we want to establish our identity and direction for this year rolling into next year. It's good to get those points at the end of the year even though they don't mean much in the standings."
Maxwell and O'Dell each had a goal in regulation, as did Carl Klingberg for St. John's (31-36-7). Mark Dekanich made 19 saves for the win.
Ryan Lasch, Greg Scott and Spencer Abbott, who had Toronto's lone shootout goal, replied for the Marlies (42-23-9) in regulation. Garret Sparks stopped 25 shots in defeat in just his second game with the Marlies.
It's been a tough year for St. John's, which had 94 points a year ago but just 71 this season.
"It was a different year with the lockout and every team in the American League goes through injuries," McCambridge said. "We've been hit extremely hard. We're over the 425-430 mark of man-games lost this season. That happens."
"It's been a frustrating year, but I like where some of our young guys are at. It's a balance between winning games and developing."
St. John's built a 3-1 lead through two periods, outshooting Toronto 22-10. But the Marlies came back with a pair in the third to tie the game.
Abbott, who missed a penalty shot earlier in the period, made amends at 8:51 of the third with his 13th goal of the season on a 5-on-3 power play. Stuart Percy's point shot bounced off the glass right to Abbott, who had a tap-in at the side of the goal.
Toronto then tied the game at 13:47 of the third when Scott deked around a pair of IceCaps then sent a wrist shot past Dekanich for his 13th of the season.
"In the third period, the game got away from us a little bit," McCambridge said. "But once it was 3-3, I thought we generated some chances out there. It's nice to get a win here in a really tough building."
Toronto had an outside shot at catching the Texas Stars for first in the Western Conference, but opted to rest many of its veterans Saturday in favour of rookies, since the game had no playoff implications.
"These are auditions," said Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. "We're going to have a whole lot of guys come back into the lineup for the playoffs.
"Our team was motivated. This wasn't just trying to get through the game. We wanted to try and take a crack at Texas for that top spot. I liked the way our guys dug their heels in."
After a scoreless first period, St. John's opened the scoring less than five minutes into the second. Maxwell took a pass from O'Dell from behind the net and snapped a wrist shot past Sparks for his 10th of the season.
The lead didn't last long as Lasch took a long pass at the IceCaps' blue-line from Simon Gysbers and fired a shot stick side for his fourth goal.
St. John's got the lead back with a power-play goal just over two minutes left in the period as Maxwell fed O'Dell at the side of the goal with a wide-open net for his team-leading 29th.
The IceCaps made it 3-1 less than five minutes into the third when Klingberg deked around defenceman Dylan Yeo and slid the puck through Sparks' legs.
"We weren't generating a lot of chances through two periods, which is understandable to a certain degree," Eakins said. "I thought in the third we got things going."
The teams meet again Sunday in Toronto for the final game of their regular-season schedules.