TORONTO - Nick Rose was ordinary for three quarters but extraordinary in the fourth.
The Toronto Rock netminder, who was lifted briefly late in the third, returned to blank the Minnesota Swarm in the last quarter, enabling his teammates to complete a rally from a four-goal deficit and win 13-12 Friday night.
"Our D and our offence really stepped it up when we needed them to," said Rose. "That's a really gutsy win against a young, athletic team."
Stephan Leblanc got the winner. He was near the crease to the left of goaltender Tyler Carlson when Garrett Billings fed him a quick pass. The ball was in and out of Leblanc's stick in less than a second as he tossed it into the open side of the net with 6:02 remaining in the National Lacrosse League game.
"It was a nice feed by Garrett," said Leblanc. "He's got pretty good vision. Credit him with most of that. I just had to put the icing on the cake."
The Swarm had late chances but Rose was at his best when it mattered most.
The win wiped away the bad taste of an 8-7 loss to Philadelphia in the home opener the previous weekend. The Rock blew a huge lead in dropping that one.
"It's good to be on the winning end of one of those," said Leblanc.
Josh Sanderson scored four goals, Billings scored two and assisted on six, Kasey Beirnes got two and Jesse Gamble, Colin Doyle and Bill Greer chipped in with one each as the Rock improved to 3-1.
"It was a great team win," said Sanderson. "We needed a win at home. We got some momentum from the crowd. Our D and goalie held us in and then we went on a bit of a run. It's a real good win for everybody."
Toronto outshot Minnesota 58-36.
Rookie Kiel Matisz scored his first three NLL goals for the Swarm (0-2), Ryan Benesch and Callum Crawford got two each and Brock Sorensen, Alex Crepinsek, Andrew Watt, Jordan MacIntosh and Joel Henry added one each.
Toronto led 4-2 after one quarter. Greer, a defenceman who rarely scores or even takes a shot, got the third Rock goal. Two hours later, when his team had won by one, he was happy to be able to say he'd chipped in with a goal after putting the ball between Carlson's legs.
"I practised that all week," Greer said. "I'm not usually a five-hole guy but I had it in my head when I ran down there that I was going to shoot there. It squeaked through. It was nice to get that one."
Minnesota was up 7-6 at halftime despite trailing 28-19 on the shots counter.
When the Swarm went up 11-7 in the third quarter, Rock coach Troy Cordingley lifted Rose and sent in backup Zak Boychuk. Rock players looked at one another on the bench. The defencemen knew they'd have to play better.
"We were down by four but we knew our O hadn't had their run yet," said Greer. "We just said, 'This is it. Lock it down.' The guys did it. The level of focus just went up another notch and Rosie came back in and shut the door. He was phenomenal in the fourth quarter."
Goals by Leblanc and Sanderson late in the third left Minnesota up 12-10 after three, and Rose was sent back in after being a spectator for less than four minutes.
Henry and Jeff Gilbert had been penalized with 4.6 seconds left in the third so the Rock had a 5-on-3 advantage to start the fourth quarter, and Sanderson and Billings scored power-play goals to tie it 12-12.
Leblanc then struck for the winner with Billings earning his sixth assist of the game. His two goals were among the five consecutive goals the Rock scored in their spectacular rally.
"If we're going to get 60 shots a game we're going to win games," said Billings. "It's taken us a few games to find the chemistry we need on offence. It's tough early in the season to get that chemistry, to know what the other guys you're on the floor with are doing, where to find them open. Hopefully, we found a little more of that and we can keep putting the ball in the back of the net like we did in this one."
Toronto is at Rochester on Saturday while Minnesota faces Washington. Fortunately for the Swarm, they won't have much time to worry about blowing a lead again. They did the same thing in losing in Buffalo on Jan. 12.
"We had them right where we wanted them," Carlson said of the Rock. "We had Rosie out of the net, we had their backup in, but we just couldn't capitalize on that. Then the fourth quarter came and we took our foot off the gas — not a lot but just enough to allow them to come back. That's the second game in a row. We've got to work on that."
Notes: Doyle had four assists . . . Toronto was 5 for 6 and Minnesota was 2 for 5 on power plays . . . Minnesota's Jordan MacIntosh was 21 for 29 on faceoffs for a 72 per cent win rate . . . Billings hit the 100-goal career mark with his first of the night . . . Snow that reduced traffic to a crawl kept some Rock fans from outside the city at home. Announced attendance at Air Canada Centre was 10,504 . . . This was the first meeting of these teams in four years . . . Toronto deleted F Scott Evans, D Damon Edwards and F Brandon Ivey . . . Minnesota captain Andrew Suitor served the second game of a two-game league suspension. T Pat Smith and F Matt Gibson were scratched.