HAMILTON - A brief offensive outburst was all the St. John's IceCaps needed to beat Hamilton on Friday.
Jason Gregoire and Kael Mouillerat scored two quick goals in the second period en route to the IceCaps' 2-1 win over the Bulldogs in American Hockey League action.
Mark Dekanich, who made 26 saves for St. John's (14-15-1), credited his defenders with keeping Hamilton's chances to a minimum.
"They played great," said Dekanich. "They let me see pretty much everything, which was nice.
"I didn't have to deal with too many rebounds, so they did a great job in front of me. That makes everything a whole lot easier."
Hamilton was left to once again rue its lack of scoring touch, despite a spirited effort in the final period.
"It's disappointing," said Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. "We had some chances in the third period and we pushed back in the third, but we have to come up with goals.
"The second period hurt us and it seemed like we didn't have any jump in that period. In the third, we battled through it and got better, but we just couldn't score."
The game began slowly, with the Bulldogs failing to take advantage of an early power play when Patrice Cormier was whistled for roughing at 1:58 of the first.
At the other end of the ice, a sustained period of pressure nearly resulted in a goal for St. John's 10 minutes into the contest when Hamilton's Kyle Hagel inadvertently tipped a shot from the point toward his own net.
The Bulldogs squandered a golden opportunity of their own with the first drawing to a close and the hosts on a power play. Traffic in front of the net left Dekanich floundering, but neither Mike Blunden nor Michael Bournival could tap the rolling puck in as it came through the crease.
The deadlock was broken at 5:37 of the second, despite two sterling saves by Desjardins only minutes earlier.
With the IceCaps pressing, Will O'Neill launched a shot from the point that hit teammate Carl Klingberg in the back and sat invitingly just outside the crease. Gregoire gathered the loose puck and stepped around the traffic in front before beating the screened Desjardins with a wrist shot.
The visitors doubled their advantage only 4:04 later, when Derek Meech's clever slap-pass found Mouillerat in the slot and the centre stopped to control the puck before firing it past Desjardins.
Hamilton hit back almost immediately through an impressive play between Gallagher and winger Fortier. The winger carried the puck over the blue-line and slipped a no-look pass to Gallagher, who split the defenders down the middle and put the puck through Dekanich's legs for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Dekanich was alert to begin the third period as the Bulldogs pressed to find an equalizer. He denied Olivier Fortier from point-blank range before stopping Joonas Nattinen in tight minutes later to preserve the one-goal lead.
"We knew that (the Bulldogs) were going to come out with a big push being at home and down by one," said Dekanich. "We were ready.
"I had to make a couple of big saves there but that's my job."
Gallagher said the Bulldogs need to understand what kind of team they are if they want to start winning.
"I think we have to realize what kind of team we are," he said. "We're not a team with a bunch of 50-goal scorers. We're a team that's going to outwork other teams and frustrate them and find ways to win games 3-1 or 3-2.
"The quicker that we realize that and adapt, the quicker we help ourselves out."
Meanwhile, the IceCaps gained two valuable points amid a busy stretch that concludes Saturday when they play their third game in four nights against the Marlies.
"This was an important win," said Dekanich. "We're at the end of a long road trip here, going into the break.
"This was a big win against a pretty good team, so we're going to look to build off of it tomorrow and keep it going."
Note: Defenceman Cody Wild made his debut for the Bulldogs on Friday after signing a tryout contract with the team before the game. ... St. John's winger Spencer Machacek was held without a goal, breaking his three-game scoring streak.
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