HAMILTON, Ont. – It was a night Chris Chelios would rather forget.
David Desharnais scored the winning goal and added an assist as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat Chicago Wolves 3-1 in American Hockey League action on Wednesday night. Hours before the game, Westmont, Ill., police confirmed they charged Chelios, the 47-year-old Wolves defenceman, with drunk driving after pulling him over on Dec. 28.
On the ice, things weren’t much better as a controversial tripping call against Chelios led to Hamilton’s game-tying goal by P.K. Subban.
“It was bad luck. Maybe (the ref) was at a bad angle – or hung over,” Chelios said of the call. “It doesn’t matter – it happens.”
He stopped talking and walked out a back door of Copps Coliseum when asked to comment on the drunk driving charge.
The loss snapped Chicago’s three-game winning streak. Hamilton (24-9-5) remains atop the North Division while Chicago (18-16-2) stays at sixth place in the West Division.
After mustering only two shots in the first period, Chicago opened the scoring on a second-period power play. Hamilton goalie Cedrick Desjardins was unable to handle the rebound off Jason Krog’s point shot at his feet. Johnny Pohl poked the puck between Desjardins’ legs for his ninth goal of the season.
With two minutes left in the second period, referee Ghislain Hebert made a controversial tripping call on Chelios after it appeared Hamilton winger J.T. Wyman stepped on Chelios’ stick and fell into the boards. That led to Subban’s power-play goal from the point to even the score.
“It was a ridiculous pass,” Subban said. “(Desharnais) made an unbelievable play and I just tried to release it quickly.”
Subban said controversial calls are part of the game.
“One game it might be against the other team. Another game, it might be you,” he said. “That’s hockey.”
Desharnais, Hamilton’s leading scorer, added his 14th goal of the season 5:28 into the third period. His wrist shot squeaked through Chicago goalie Peter Mannino’s pads with centre Ryan White screening in front.
White added an empty-netter for Hamilton with four seconds left.
“Unfortunately, they scored on a phantom penalty on Chelios, which was a very bad call,” said Chicago coach Don Lever. “And the winner was a phantom goal. Other than the first period, I thought we played a solid game.”
Both teams’ goalies have been hot lately. Mannino, who made 32 saves in the loss, was named the AHL’s player of the week on Monday after going 3-0 with a .962 save percentage last week.
Desjardins was named first star of the game after stopping 25 saves for the win. Desjardins was named the league’s goalie of the month on Monday after going 8-0 with three shutouts in December.
A sparse crowd of 1,952 showed up at Copps Coliseum for the game, the second-worst in the Bulldogs’ history.
Chicago heads home for a game against Peoria on Saturday, while Hamilton hosts Lake Erie on Friday.
Notes: The game was Chicago head coach Don Lever and assistant coach Ron Wilson’s first game in Hamilton since being let go from identical positions with the Bulldogs in June.
The Bulldogs were without winger Andrew Conboy, who sustained a concussion in a game on Sunday against Milwaukee.