TORONTO - The Toronto Marlies and Hamilton Bulldogs decided to extend the regular season by playing an overtime affair in the final game of the year.
Toronto's Bates Battaglia tied the game with 12 seconds left in regulation, but Mathieu Carle got the extra-time winner for Hamilton to provide his team with a 2-1 win on Saturday afternoon in American Hockey League action.
The Bulldogs ended the year on a five-game winning streak.
It appeared David Desharnais' goal was going to hold up as the winner for Hamilton until Toronto got a late power play and Battaglia hammered home a hard shot from the high slot.
However, with just 1:14 left in overtime, Carle snuck in from the point and drilled home the game-winner after Desharnais found him with a nice pass from behind the net.
For the most part, the game lacked intensity - especially in the beginning - because each team had already sewn up its playoff position. Both squads chose to sit several regulars and both backup goalies got the call, with Cedrick Desjardins staring for Hamilton and Adam Munro between the pipes for the Marlies.
Hamilton (49-27-4) finished second in the North Division, while Toronto (39-28-12) secured fourth place in the North with a thrilling overtime win over the Manitoba Moose on Friday.
After a flat first period, Desharnais opened the scoring 6:28 into the second.
Just moments after failing to capitalize on a glorious 3-on-1 chance from close in, Desharnais found the net in a much less glamorous way when his floater of a wrist shot from the high slot eluded Munro's grasp. Desharnais' first chance came when he made a terrific toe-drag move to the middle of the ice before firing the shot wide on Munro's stick side.
The one real outburst of emotion in the game came during a second-period altercation in which Hamilton's Ben Maxwell and Toronto's Brent Aubin were each ejected from the game for spearing.
Hamilton will host the third-place Grand Rapids Griffins to begin the playoffs on Friday, while the Marlies travel to Winnipeg to open their series with the first-place Moose on Wednesday.
NOTES: The Marlies handed out their year-end team awards prior to the game, with leading scorer Tim Stapleton taking MVP honours. Stapleton set a new Marlies franchise record with 79 points this season. ... One of the players Hamilton opted to sit was leading goal-scorer Mike Glumac. ... Hamilton's five-game winning streak was its longest of the season.