MONTREAL – After five consecutive defeats at the hands of the Rochester Americans, the Bell Centre faithful provided the Hamilton Bulldogs with the spark they needed to best their AHL North Division foes Friday night by a 3-2 score in front of 10,173 fans.
“It was fun. It's always fun and exciting playing here,” said defenseman Jarred Tinordi, selected 22nd overall by the Canadiens in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. “The fans are great. Montreal played last night [Thursday] and they play tomorrow [Saturday], and the fans still came out and supported us tonight. So, that was nice. It's always nice to see.”
The Bulldogs earned their first victory over the Americans dating back to November 3rd, 2012.
Defensemen Mark Pysyk opened the scoring for Rochester at 10:35 of the opening period as Hamilton and Rochester skated four players aside. The Sherwood Park, AB native converted on the tail end of a 3-on-1 rush, the recipient of a feed from center Phil Varone in the slot. Pysyk’s fourth goal of the season beat Bulldogs netminder Dustin Tokarski to put the Americans up 1-0.
Hamilton tied it up just 68 seconds later, however, as Tinordi’s point-shot took an awkward bounce off the boards behind Rochester goaltender David Leggio. The puck re-directed into the Americans' net off the 28-year-old netminder’s right pad to level the score at one. It was Tinordi’s second goal of the season.
“I got the puck back. I got my head up and I couldn't find any lanes really, and I know the boards are pretty active here,” said Tinordi, a native of Burnsville, MN. “I was hoping it would kick back and someone would get a stick on it in front. I didn't see what happened there, but lucky enough, it went in. I'll take it.”
Maxime Legault put the Americans up 2-1 with a short-handed tally at the 14:02 mark of the period, the beneficiary of defenseman Brayden McNabb’s point-shot which hit the right post behind Tokarski and lay loose just outside the goal crease. Legault, a native of St. Agathe, QC and a seventh-round selection of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, put the rebound past Tokarski to register his third goal of the year.
Hamilton jumped on Rochester to start the second period, beating Leggio twice in a span of just over two minutes. After Mike Blunden tallied his ninth goal of the season at the 26 second mark, re-directing a Michael Bournival feed from the right half-wall, Steve Quailer beat Leggio with a point-shot through a screen at 2:04 to put the Bulldogs ahead 3-2. Quailer’s goal, the eventual game-winner, was his fifth of the season.
“We just kind of gave them the first two goals there [in the first period]. They were just bad plays on our part, so we just wanted to keep going and dig down and get back on our forecheck,” said Blunden, noting that the Bulldogs sought to re-establish momentum at the outset of the second frame after struggling to close out the first period. “We needed to communicate a little better in our end. That's how they scored the first two goals. We just needed to keep going, get in on the forecheck and bury all of our opportunities.”
The Bulldogs and Americans traded chances in the third period. Tokarski, however, preserved the Bulldogs’ one-goal lead by turning aside a pair of point-blank scoring opportunities. The Humboldt, SK native stopped a Nick Tarnasky one-timer at the six-minute mark from the slot, and proceeded to deny Luke Adam on a power-play opportunity minutes later. The win was Tokarski’s second in three starts with the Bulldogs since being acquired from Tampa Bay on February 14th in exchange for Cedrick Desjardins.
Currently in last place in the AHL’s Western Conference with 46 points, the Bulldogs recorded only their second victory of the season against the Americans in nine meetings thus far during the 2012-13 campaign. Friday night’s win over Rochester, however, marked Hamilton’s sixth win in their last eight contests, a sign, according to Tinordi, that the club is headed in the right direction.
“I think we've really found our game here. I think we're playing more as a team, playing more together. That's the most important thing,” said Tinordi. “Everyone is playing for each other out there and it shows on the ice. We've been able to battle back. I think it shows a lot of character in our team.”
“It’s a part of learning,” added Blunden. “We’re starting to build now.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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