HAMILTON – A healthy Martin St. Pierre found his scoring touch just in time to save his team on Friday.
The 30-year-old centreman scored his first two goals of the season, including the overtime winner, as the Bulldogs defeated the Toronto Marlies 2-1 in American Hockey League action.
The captain attributed his offence to his recent return to full health after missing time earlier in the season with an injury.
“It’s frustrating to go five games with no goals,” said St. Pierre. “But my injury set me back and I didn’t want to push too hard.
“I’m 100 per cent now and it felt great to get some goals and get going.”
Dustin Tokarski made 24 saves for the Bulldogs (5-2-2).
Josh Leivo had the lone goal for the Marlies (5-3-1). Drew MacIntyre made 35 saves in a losing effort.
St. Pierre scored his second goal of the game at 2:56 of the overtime period, with his team enjoying a 4-on-3 man advantage.
Nathan Beaulieu and Magnus Nygren traded passes on the blue line before Nygren released a low slap shot that MacIntyre kicked into St. Pierre’s path on the right side of the net. The Bulldogs’ captain did the rest, placing a wrist shot in the top corner of the net with MacIntyre sprawling.
Hamilton head coach Sylvain Lefebvre confirmed that his team had been looking to create more traffic in front of MacIntyre as the game wore on.
“That was something that we talked about between periods,” he said. “MacIntyre was seeing the puck really well, so we had to make a better effort to stand in front of him and get better screens.”
Neither team could piece together a scoring chance in the opening minutes, until a defensive lapse by the Bulldogs gifted the Marlies the game’s first goal.
Greg McKegg pressured Hamilton’s Morgan Ellis behind the Bulldogs’ net and forced a turnover before quickly sliding a centering pass to Spencer Abbott in the low slot. The puck deflected off of the well-covered forward and toward the oncoming Leivo, whose close-range wrist shot beat Tokarski over the glove hand at 5:01 of the first period.
Toronto began to get the better of play as the period wore on, and Tokarski had to be sharp with four and a half minutes to play in the first, when a scramble in front of his net forced him to produce three saves in quick succession.
It was MacIntyre’s turn to take the spotlight early in the second period, as the Marlies found themselves hemmed into their defensive zone eight minutes in. The goaltender stayed low as a crowd developed in front of him, and kicked aside two point-blank wrist shots from the slot to preserve Toronto’s lead.
The second period wore on with few scoring chances for either side, but Abbott had the best chance when he snuck behind the Hamilton defence and received a pass in the low slot. He had little room to move, however, and could only slide a weak effort into the pads of Tokarski.
A power play provided the spark that Hamilton needed to level the game, when Stuart Percy was whistled for hooking at 11:24 of the third period.
The Bulldogs set up their cycle on the ensuing power play, and Beaulieu shifted the puck across the blue line to Nygren. His initial slap shot was blocked, but took a rebound and found St. Pierre in the right circle, who provided an easy finish with MacIntyre out of position at 11:56.
Lefebvre argued that his team’s equalizer was a just reward for its level of play.
“For two periods, we did everything but score goals,” he said. “We had some good chances, some good time in the offensive zone. We didn’t give up many scoring chances.
“I thought it was just a matter of time before we scored.”
Note: Toronto winger Jerry D’Amigo left the game three minutes into the second period after falling awkwardly into the boards and did not return.