HAMILTON - A lack of discipline seemed to be all that separated the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies and the last-place Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Marlies scored on an early power-play, while a late two-man disadvantage kept the Bulldogs from mounting a comeback as Toronto edged Hamilton 2-1 in American Hockey League action Friday.
The Bulldogs (8-12-2) appeared to be starting to claw their way out from the basement of the North Division standings, but they took penalty after penalty in the loss. They ended the game with 28 penalty minutes, including a double-minor for spearing and a 10-minute misconduct to Brian Willsie at the end of the game.
"We?re not going play dumb hockey. We're going to be a smart team and try to beat teams on the power play," said Toronto coach Dallas Eakins after the game. He added his team expected the early aggressive play by Hamilton, but wouldn't be baited by the Bulldogs.
"Coach Eakins always says just stay with it and don't get into the retaliation part," said Jerry D'Amigo, who scored the winning goal. "We beat them on the ice and we don?t need to give them that stuff."
D'Amigo's winner came at 8:18 of the second period as he beat Hamilton goaltender Nathan Lawson on a wrap-around.
Greg Scott opened the scoring for Toronto (13-7-4) with a first-period power-play goal.
Andreas Engqvist, on a power-play, replied for Hamilton.
Ben Scrivens made 26 saves for Toronto, while Lawson stopped 26 shots for Hamilton.
Hamilton gave Toronto a five-on-three opportunity in the third period, giving the Bulldogs little opportunity to mount a comeback against the division-leading Marlies.
Discipline has been a problem for Hamilton this season and was part of the reason the Bulldogs struggled through a six-game skid in November.
"There's no question too many penalties, said Hamilton coach Clem Jodoin. "We're burning some energy not for the right purpose."
Nazem Kadri was a target all game for the Bulldogs, who hit him early and often. The Marlies centre, who came in riding an eight-game point streak (six goals, eight assists), refused to react and declined challenge to fight from the similar-sized Gabriel Dumont.
A tripping penalty to Hamilton's Joe Stejskal gave the Marlies their third power-play chance of the first period, and they capitalized.
Greg Scott knocked in a rebound from the goal line that bounced off Lawson and in at 18:27.
Engqvist evened the score on a Hamilton power-play, knocking in a rebound past a scrambling Scrivens who had been turned around from a rush by Philip DeSimone and a point shot from Frederic St. Denis.
Toronto regained the lead as Ryan Hamilton fed D'Amigo as he circled the Hamilton net, beating Lawson to the post.
It???s a play the line has just started to work on in practice.
"It was nice to see it pay off for them right away," Eakins added.
This was the first of twelve meetings between the Marlies and Bulldogs, who will face off in the AHL's Outdoor Classic on January 21 at Ivory Wynne Stadium.
Both the Bulldogs and the Marlies got help from their parent clubs with the return of a pair of big players. Frederick St. Denis was returned to Hamilton's lineup by the Montreal Canadiens. Joe Colborne returned to the Marlies from the Toronto Maple Leafs.