HAMILTON, Ont. – It was a memorable game for David Desharnais and the Hamilton Bulldogs as they beat the Manitoba Moose 6-2 in American Hockey League play Sunday.
Desharnais scored and added two assists to finish the game with 78 points on the season, breaking the franchise record of 77 points set by Jason Chimera in 2001-02.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs earned their 112th point of the season, breaking the franchise record of 110 set in 2002-03.
“It’s a great honour, but I think the most important thing was to get the team record tonight,” said a beaming Desharnais after the game, whose family was in attendance to witness the feat.
“It was my brother’s birthday today, so I’m pretty happy they’re here. We are going to have a couple beers for sure tonight.”
Hamilton forward Andrew Conboy opened the scoring halfway through the first period.
“When we start games where it’s not our top offensive guys scoring, we usually have a great game because it relieves all the pressure off those guys,” said Bulldogs coach Guy Boucher.
In a great individual effort, Brock Trotter beat three Moose players before flipping the puck past Moose backup goaltender Daren Machesney for the Bulldogs’ second goal 5:33 into the second period.
One minute later, Moose winger Peter Olvecky threaded a pass through the legs of Hamilton defenceman Yannick Weber to Tom Maxwell in front of the net, who one-timed the puck over goalie Cedrick Desjardins.
But the Bulldogs replied with three more second-period goals from Desharnais, Weber (on the power play) and Hunter Bishop. Bishop’s goal, scored on the doorstep off a Shawn Belle shot, was his first professional goal.
“We were starting to get some life in that period, and then we made three mistakes on one-on-one situations,” said Moose coach Scott Arniel. “That’s what hockey is about. There are one-on-one battles all over the ice, and we lost three of them.”
In the third period, Guillaume Desbiens managed a second goal for the Moose, beating Desjardins five-hole on the power play.
But Weber replied with his second goal on his first shift back after being hit into the boards by Manitoba tough guy Aaron Volpatti earlier in the period.
Desjardins earned his 28th win of the season for the Bulldogs, stopping 25 shots. Machesney made 21 saves in his first start in more than a month.
“I don’t throw the blame on (Machesney). It’s a long time he’s been out,” said Arniel. “But saying that, that’s the tough job he has to face. Sometimes it’s a long time between (starts).”
The game was not all good news for the Bulldogs. They lost forward Max Pacioretty, who reinjured his shoulder in the first period. He has already missed 13 games because of the injury, and it is unclear how long he will be out for.
“What a devastating blow,” said Boucher. “He was doing great and working hard, so it’s too bad.”
The match was a possible playoff preview. The Bulldogs (51-16-10) and Moose (37-33-7) would face each other in the first round if the post-season started immediately, although it’s possible the Moose could face the Rochester Americans with the Bulldogs playing the Abbotsford Heat.
“The playoffs are going to be tough because those teams are all going to be getting some players back. (Manitoba) sat out a few guys tonight,” said Boucher.
Notes: Hamilton leads the season series against Manitoba 4-3, outscoring the Moose 27-18. The teams play again in Hamilton on Tuesday. . . Moose captain Mike Keane was a healthy scratch. . . The game was slow-paced early, with both teams looking sluggish thanks to busy schedules. It was Manitoba’s third game in as many days, and the Bulldogs’ third outing in four days.