TORONTO - The Hamilton Bulldogs shook off a sluggish first period to beat the rival Toronto Marlies 2-1 in a shootout Sunday afternoon in AHL.
Rookie left winger Max Pacioretty played the scoring hero, beating Marlies goaltender Justin Pogge with a nifty deke to break a 2-2 shootout deadlock.
But it was Bulldogs netminder Marc Denis who put Hamilton in a position to win, turning aside 31 Toronto shots and then stoning three of five Marlies in the shootout.
"It was a goalie's battle," said Toronto right winger Jeremy Williams, who scored the Marlies' only regulation goal, but was stopped by a vocally enthusiastic Denis in the shootout. "He was clearly happy to stop me, I think the whole arena heard that."
With Hamilton playing its fourth game in five days and the Marlies playing their third in three, fatigue was evident early on as the teams traded turnovers and undisciplined penalties. Despite an empty scoresheet, the rivals turned it on in the second period.
"I thought we looked pretty good," said Toronto coach Greg Gilbert. "We had some good jump."
The Marlies continued an excellent run of penalty-killing, dismissing seven Hamilton man-advantages, including a crucial 5-on-3 that quickly followed Williams' tying goal.
"That was huge," Gilbert said. "I think our guys did an outstanding job."
Hamilton's David Desharnais opened the game scoring in the third, curling around the right faceoff circle and firing a wrist shot at Pogge's five-hole that handcuffed the young goalie. Pogge made the initial save, but actually kicked the puck in himself while trying to squeeze his pads together.
Williams tied the game for the Marlies at 12:46 on the power play. Taking a pass from centre Tim Stapleton, Williams powered a slap shot from the left faceoff circle that was tipped in front by a Bulldogs defenceman, eluding Denis in the process.
Denis' best save came in the second when Williams sprung centre Boyd Devereaux for an open look right in front of the Bulldogs goalie. Denis turned aside both Devereaux's initial shot at the rebound attempt.
A 4-on-3 power play for Toronto midway through the second illicited several good chances for both sides. Williams ripped a wicked wrist shot from the left faceoff circle, while a giveaway at centre ice gave Hamilton leading scorer Matt D'Agostini a short-handed breakaway, which was turned away by Pogge.
The shootout was a back-and-forth affair with Toronto taking an early lead on goals from Stapleton and right winger Brent Aubin. But defenceman Juha Outila hit the post on his attempt and the momentum shifted to the Bulldogs.
After a Mike Glumac goal tied the proceedings for Hamilton, a Williams miss set up what turned out to be the final shot. Pacioretty, who was a freshman at the University of Michigan last year, deked to Pogge's left and potted the decider.
Toronto had many good scoring opportunities on Denis during regulation, but the ex-NHLer was too fundamentally sound.
"He's so good going side-to-side," Williams said. "You're trying to go over his shoulder, but he's quick."
Notes: The Marlies wore their new third jerseys, which feature mascot Duke the DogToronto went five straight periods without a goal before the Williams tally, dating back to a shutout loss to Lake Erie Saturday...Hamilton defenceman Pavel Valentenko was listed as a healthy scratch despite the fact he had recently signed a contract with Moscow Dynamo of Russia's Kontinental League and is unlikely to return...the two teams went a combined 1-for-15 on the power play.