HAMILTON – Nazem Kadri’s first goal as a professional turned out to be the spark the Marlies needed.
Kadri’s was the first of four unanswered goals as Toronto rallied to a 5-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs in American Hockey League action on Saturday.
Hamilton (1-1-0) led 2-0 and 3-1 in the second and had multiple chances to bury the Marlies, including an empty net while Toronto’s James Reimer came out of his net to play the puck.
Kadri’s first goal as a professional on a shot through traffic made it 3-2 late in the period and kicked off the rally.
Hamilton’s Ben Maxwell, who had two goals on the night, points to the missed opportunities by his team as to what changed the game’s momentum.
“That turned the game right around,” Maxwell said of Kadri’s marker. “It would have been 4-1 and then it was 3-2 all of a sudden. It was a huge turning point.”
Darryl Boyce scored a controversial winner in the third. He appeared to redirect Keith Aulie’s shot past Hamilton goalie Robert Mayer with a high stick.
“Ones that bounce off of two, three things and end up in your net are a little disheartening,” said Hamilton head coach Randy Cunneyworth of the fluke goal.
Toronto was slow out of the gate, lacking any rhythm through the first two periods. The 3-2 score after two periods was more of a reflection of odd bounces and missed opportunities, rather than a close game.
Coming out in the third period, the roles had reversed. The Marlies controlled the play, and the Bulldogs found themselves chasing.
“I think we were a bit down,” said Maxwell of the Bulldogs mood going into the second intermission. “We were still up in the game; we still had no excuse to lose that one.”
The Bulldogs coach didn’t put the blame on goalie Rober Mayer, who had 28 saves and four goals against in the loss.
“I thought he made some saves that were ones he maybe shouldn’t have, and then a couple of unfortunate bounces,” Cunneyworth said. “We had things going in our direction and we lost that groove.”
David Desharnais and Ryan Russell had a 2-on-1 opportunity robbed by the outstretched right pad by Reimer, keeping the score 3-1 to set the stage for the Toronto comeback.
Ryan Hamilton and Brayden Irwin had the other two Toronto goals, who gain their first win and move to 1-2-0 on the season.
Reimer finished with 33 saves and Luca Caputi added the empty-netter.