TORONTO - After worrying he might witness the overtime winner from the penalty box, Viktor Stalberg ended up scoring it himself.
Stalberg scored his second goal of the game late in overtime as the Toronto Marlies downed the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-5 in American Hockey League action Saturday afternoon.
Stalberg was whistled for holding in the extra period, but his teammates stymied the Bulldogs' power play to keep the game alive. Then, after jumping out of the box, Stalberg took advantage of some sloppy play by Hamilton in its own zone, collecting a loose puck at the top of the circle and firing it past Curtis Sanford low on the glove side.
It was a series of events that left Stalberg smiling after the game, especially when talking about how his teammates bailed him out.
"You're going from being the goat to the hero," he said. "The guys did a great job killing that off. You can just look and learn from (Ben Ondrus), he goes down and blocks a shot like that and kind of saved the game for us."
Andre Deveaux also scored a pair for the Marlies, while Stalberg added an assist,
The two wingers played on a line between centre Darryl Boyce to form Toronto's most effective trio.
"That whole line was very good tonight," said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins. "They seemed to be clicking and when Viktor is using his speed and looking at the net, he's in position to have some good nights. He likes to use his speed, but a lot of times he starts rotating up in the offensive zone, looking back to our defencemen instead of gunning it at the net."
The 11-goal outburst was unexpected considering the Bulldogs entered Saturday with a three-game shutout streak, including a 3-0 win over the Marlies on Friday night in Hamilton.
Toronto, meanwhile, had failed to find the back of the net in its previous two contests and had just one goal in its last three games before breaking out against the Bulldogs on home ice.
Deveaux, like his team, was mired in a serious offensive slump, with no goals in his last 13 games despite consistently creating good opportunities.
"I felt really good for Andre Deveaux," Eakins said. "He's been struggling to score, he's had so many chances and it was nice for him to chip in as well."
Not surprisingly, Deveaux felt a sense of relief having finally broken through.
"It's been a while since I've been able to contribute offensively," he said. "It's nice to get a couple goals, get rewarded for going to the front of the net."
Troy Bodie and Greg Scott each had a goal and an assist for the Marlies, while Andrew Engelage turned aside 42 Hamilton shots for his first-ever AHL victory.
The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Marlies (11-9-4), while Hamilton (14-6-5) saw its three-game winning streak come to an end.
David Desharnais had a goal and an assist for Hamilton, which also got goals from Mike Glumac, J.T. Wyman, Eric Neilson and Ryan Russell.
The Marlies never trailed during the game, but squandered leads of 3-1, 4-3 and 5-4. They led 2-0 after the first period on goals from Deveaux and Stalberg. Deveaux's goal ended Hamilton's franchise-record shutout streak at 207 minutes and 21 seconds, shared by both Sanford and Cedrick Desjardins.
Glumac got the Bulldogs on the board 1:26 into the second, but Bodie restored Toronto's two-goal advantage just six seconds later, grabbing a loose puck off the ensuing faceoff and firing it past Sanford on a breakaway.
The Marlies held a one-goal lead heading into the third before Neilson tied the game just over seven minutes into the period, beating Engelage on a wrist shot.
Deveaux scored his second of the game to put the Marlies up by one just past the midway point of the third, but Russell answered by hammering home a loose puck in the slot with just over five minutes left to pull Hamilton even for the third time in the game.
NOTES: The AHL all-time shutout mark of 249 minutes and 51 seconds was set by Johnny Bower with the Cleveland Barons in 1957 ... Hamilton's Brock Trotter had a three-game point streak snapped ... Ryan White dressed for the Bulldogs after being demoted by the Montreal Canadiens earlier in the day.