The Hamilton Bulldogs found the goals, and the start, that they’ve been sorely missing lately.
Brendan Gallagher scored twice and Cedrick Desjardins made 23 saves as the Bulldogs defeated the Toronto Marlies 6-3 in American Hockey League action Friday.
“It’s good for the guys to score some goals,” said Hamilton head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. “It’s been hard lately and hopefully it’s going to give them confidence with the puck and confidence in shooting it.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is the two points.”
Joonas Nattinen, Morgan Ellis, Alexander Avtsin and Aaron Palushaj added goals for the Bulldogs (5-5-2).
Desjardins’ win comes in his first game of the season, having returned to the lineup after suffering a groin injury in training camp.
“Cedrick made some big saves,” said Lefebvre. “His first glove save on Toronto’s first power play was great.
“He was good tonight and for his first game back it was really good. He’s a huge part of our team and we know that we’re going to need him.”
Matt Frattin, playing in his first game in six months after undergoing knee surgery in the spring, scored twice, and Jerry D’Amigo added a goal for the Marlies (7-5-1).
Toronto opened the scoring after Hamilton’s Jarred Tinordi was whistled for hooking at 7:19 of the first, giving the Marlies a two-man advantage.
Frattin scored his first goal of the season at 8:53, collecting a slap-pass from winger Spencer Abbott and finding the top corner with a quick wrist shot.
The power-play goal against snapped a streak of 18 consecutive penalties killed by the Bulldogs.
The hosts levelled the score just over three minutes later.
Defenceman Frederic St. Denis carried the puck into the corner and found his partner Ellis with a cross-ice pass. The rookie’s slapshot beat Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens through traffic for Ellis’ first goal of the season.
The Bulldogs took the lead through another unlikely scorer. Rookie winger Avtsin, playing in his first game of the season, chipped his own rebound past Scrivens after a deflected point shot at 16:21.
The advantage was doubled in the final minute of the first.
With the Bulldogs on the power play after a kneeing penalty to the Marlies’ Ryan Hamilton, centre Michael Bournival found Gallagher in the slot with a short centring pass and the winger slotted the puck past Scrivens.
“We’ve been giving up the first goal quite a bit, but we’re learning as a team,” said Gallagher on the first period.
“It’s a long game and we stayed with the game plan. We got one quick and we kept building on it.
“When you come out of the first with a lead, more often than not you’re going to win.”
The goal was Gallagher’s team-leading fourth of the season, and the first power-play goal scored by Hamilton in its past three games.
Frattin scored his second goal of the game to cut into Toronto’s deficit at 12:23 of the second period. Nazem Kadri wheeled out to the blue-line and released a shot that was batted past Desjardins by Frattin in the high slot.
The visitors closed the gap six and a half minutes into the third period, when D’Amigo tipped Simon Gysbers’ point shot past Desjardins.
But the Bulldogs regained the lead at 10:05 of the third, when Nattinen deposited Avtsin’s rebound past Scrivens at close range.
Nattinen’s goal extended his streak of games with a point to three.
“It’s not like I didn’t have chances in the games before,” said the centre of his current hot streak. “But I had no luck and they weren’t bouncing in. Now they are and I’m happy for it.
“I hope I can continue it.”
His team’s resiliency after watching its lead vanish impressed Lefebvre.
“The one thing that I liked tonight is that even when Toronto came back and made it 3-3, we didn’t fold,” said the Bulldogs coach. “We got back up and on the next shift we had a better one. We built on that and scored a goal.
“That’s a good sign of character.”
Palushaj added an insurance goal just 34 seconds later, circling out from behind the net and firing a perfectly-placed wrist shot over the shoulder of Scrivens.
Gallagher scored his second goal of the game into an empty net at 18:20.
Scrivens made 23 saves for the Marlies in a losing effort.