HAMILTON – Max Pacioretty has been playing with a lot of poise, and it seemed to be rubbing off on the injury-depleted Hamilton Bulldogs.
Pacioretty continued his scoring streak with a pair of regulation goals and the Bulldogs held on for a 3-2 shootout win over the Abbotsford Heat in American Hockey League action Wednesday.
Pacioretty, the AHL player of the month for November, has 13 goals on the season and 13 points in his last seven games.
“I’m playing with some swagger right now and I think that’s helped my game a lot,” Pacioretty said.
Aaron Palushaj and Gabriel Dumont both scored in the shootout for Hamilton (14-4-4) while Curtis Sanford made 37 saves.
With the win the Bulldogs have 32 points on the season, tops in the Western Conference.
Hugo Carpentier and Lance Bouma replied in regulation for Abbotsford (12-10-2), while Bryan Cameron scored the Heat’s shootout goal. Leland Irving made 31 saves.
The Bulldogs are skating a depleted squad with Ben Maxwell, Ryan Russell and Ryan White all out of the lineup. Head coach Randy Cunneyworth has been forced to use some younger players, including Dumont.
“Dumont is a guy who maybe wouldn’t go in the shootout if we had everyone here , but now he’s proven to the coach that he’s a good shootout player,” Pacioretty said.
Cunneyworth said Pacioretty’s work ethic gives his younger players something to emulate.
“It’s a great opportunity for someone else to pick up on some of the work that (Pacioretty’s) been doing and maybe follow in his footsteps a little bit there,” Cunneyworth said.
The Heat have had offensive struggles lately and came in to Hamilton with only three regulation goals in their last four games.
They did their best to get back on track Wednesday, outshooting Hamilton 39-33.
“They were shooting from everywhere,” Cunneyworth said.
“It’s definitely too much in any game,” Pacioretty added. “We’ve got to tighten up a bit defensively, we can’t rely on Sanford as much as that even though he’s been playing outstanding.”
Pacioretty opened up the scoring for the Bulldogs at 9:59 of the first period. The Bulldogs jumped on a failed clearing attempt, and Pacioretty finished a give-and-go with David Desharnais despite being dragged down by Abbotsford’s John Armstrong.
Carpentier tied the game up at 1-1 early in the third period. Brendon Nash got caught chasing Abbotsford’s Andrew Carroll behind the net. Carpentier went to the net and buried the puck past Sanford’s glove.
Pacioretty restored Hamilton’s one-goal lead on a power-play at 12:44 of the third, scoring on a rebound after Mathieu Carle rang the puck off the post.
Bouma tied the game 2-2 on a power play when he came out from behind the Hamilton net and scored on a rebound.