HAMILTON, Ont. – A little bit of down time made all the difference for Max Pacioretty on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs’ winger had a goal and two assists as Hamilton beat the Toronto Marlies 3-1 in American Hockey League play.
“I’ve been injured for the past 10 days and haven’t had a break at all this year,” said Pacioretty. “I felt well rested tonight … so I think that’s why I was at my best.”
Ryan White and Ben Maxwell had the other goals for Hamilton (37-14-8), while Greg Scott replied for the Marlies (24-27-10).
Pacioretty scored the first goal of the game 42 seconds into the second period after deking James Reimer with a pretty backhand.
It was Pacioretty’s second goal in eight games with the Bulldogs. He has 14 points in 52 games with Hamilton’s parent club, the Montreal Canadiens, this season.
The Marlies tied it up halfway through the second when Viktor Stalberg’s pass found Scott in the slot. Scott fired a wrist shot that beat Bulldogs netminder Curtis Sanford over the shoulder.
But the Bulldogs scored the eventual game-winner with just under three minutes left in the second period. Pacioretty found White with a cross-crease pass for a tap-in past Reimer.
The Marlies wasted numerous chances on the night, including a 5-on-3 power play late in the second period.
Midway through the third period, Toronto had a golden chance to tie the game with Sanford down and out. But Scott’s shot was batted out of the air by Bulldogs forward David Desharnais just before it crossed the goal-line.
With seven minutes left in the third period, Ryan Hamilton was awarded a penalty shot after being hauled down on a short-handed breakaway. But he was unable to beat Sanford, who stuck out his right pad to block Hamilton’s deke.
Maxwell added an empty netter – with from assist to Pacioretty – to finish off Toronto with under a minute to go in the third.
“We followed our game plan to a tee,” said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins. “Ryan Hamilton made a great move on the penalty shot and we could have easily tied it. Those are tight games and they’re fun to play.”
Despite a direct conflict with Team Canada’s do-or-die Olympic quarter-final against Russia, a crowd of 3,298 showed up. Updates on the score were announced throughout the game, which the Canadians won 7-3.
Pacioretty acknowledged the Olympic matchup was a bit of a distraction for the players.
“But it would have been a lot more distracting if (Canada-Russia) was more of a close game,” he said. “After the second announcement, we knew it was pretty much over, so it wasn’t too bad.”
With the victory, Hamilton improved to 4-3 against Toronto this season. The teams meet five more times this year, with the next game coming Sunday in Hamilton.
Notes: The Bulldogs were missing defenceman Yannick Weber, who played for Switzerland in their 2-0 loss to the Americans at the Olympics earlier in the day. … Hamilton is now on a three-game winning streak. … The Marlies’ had their three-game winning streak snapped. … The Bulldogs remain atop the Western Conference, while Toronto is sixth in North Division.