HAMILTON, Ont. — Drew MacIntyre had several near misses in search of his first shutout this season. On Friday, the Toronto Marlies’ goaltender finally got one.
MacIntyre made 32 saves as the Marlies blanked the Hamilton Bulldogs 2-0 in the American Hockey League.
“I’ve had numerous one-goal games and third-period goals,” MacIntyre said. “I’ve had quite a drought in trying to find one, and it was nice to get it in a great game.
“We weathered the storm early and then the boys picked up their game.”
Toronto head coach Steve Spott praised MacIntyre’s overall effort, as well as his leading role as a penalty killer.
“He got our game puck tonight,” said Spott. “He was our best penalty killer. Our penalty kill starts with him, and he deserved the first star selection tonight.
“We care most about the wins and losses, but I know that shutouts are important to goaltenders.”
Greg McKegg and Jerry D’Amigo had goals for the Marlies (24-12-4), who have won six of their past eight games.
Dustin Tokarski stopped 20 shots for the Bulldogs (19-17-4).
Friday’s game got off to a frantic start, with Hamilton’s Christian Thomas enjoying two quality scoring chances before Toronto’s Brad Staubitz drove wide on Jarrod Tinordi and slipped a shot just wide of Tokarski’s far post.
The clearest opportunity fell to Sven Andrighetto five minutes into the first period, as he split the Toronto defence and broke in alone on MacIntyre. The winger moved to his backhand and was stopped by a sliding MacIntyre, but drew a penalty in the process.
The goaltender’s judgement served him well with four minutes to play in the period, as he rushed out of his crease to snuff out a developing break. Joonas Nattinen emerged from the penalty box and collected a loose puck behind Toronto’s defenders, but MacIntyre successfully challenged him just inside his blue-line.
The Bulldogs’ were left to rue their missed opportunities when McKegg opened the scoring for Toronto on the power play at 18:20 of the period.
McKegg took an initial shot from the blue-line and followed the ensuing scrum into the slot with Martin St. Pierre serving a tripping penalty. Wade MacLeod eventually found him with a cross-ice pass that he quickly deposited past Tokarski.
The fast-paced first period gave way to a more defensive second, as the Marlies comfortably protected their lead.
Spott confirmed that slowing the Bulldogs’ tempo was his team’s objective in the final two periods.
“We were a little bit more aggressive in the first period with our forecheck, and we made some adjustments in the final 40 minutes to make sure that we stayed above (the Bulldogs) at all times,” he said.
“They’ve got a great transition game and really good speed, so we wanted to make sure that they didn’t get behind us. I think the guys paid great attention to detail in that area.”
Toronto scored a short-handed insurance goal as D’Amigo spearheaded a solo rush at 15:45 of the period. The Marlies winger was tripped as he broke through the slot, but kept enough control to slide the puck past Tokarski, who was diving to his far post.
Hamilton outshot Toronto 24-18 through forty minutes, but rarely tested MacIntyre in the subdued second period.
The Bulldogs nearly broke MacIntyre’s shutout bid eight minutes into the third period, as Mike Blunden and Gabriel Dumont whacked at a loose puck in the low slot. But the goaltender reacted well to deny the attempts through a screen and smother the puck.
Hamilton was 0-for-7 on the power play, while Toronto converted on one of five power-play opportunities.
Spott singled out the special teams as his team’s greatest success on Friday.
“This league really does come down to specialty teams,” he said. “There are an awful lot of penalties called in this league, and so your specialty teams have to be sharp, and that really was the difference in this game.”
Notes: Attendance at Copps Coliseum was announced as 9,983 a Brandon Kozun played his first game for the Marlies since being traded to Toronto by the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.