TORONTO - Ryan Hamilton didn't want to complicate things by thinking too much on his long breakaway. Moments later, he gave the Toronto Marlies their fourth straight victory.
After tying the game in the last minute of regulation, Hamilton got the short-handed winner in overtime as the Marlies stormed back to beat the Abbotsford Heat 2-1 in American Hockey League action at Ricoh Coliseum Sunday afternoon.
Hamilton's decisive goal came while the Heat held a 4-on-3 advantage. After blocking a shot, Hamilton took his teammate's advice and stopped thinking.
"When I blocked the shot, Ben Ondrus just said, 'Go, blow the zone' and he just put it up to me," Hamilton said. "I couldn't believe how much time I had I don't really remember much after that. I just kind of put it on net and when I saw it going in, it was a good feeling.
"I had a long breakaway so I had time to think about it, but I was pretty blank."
Hamilton beat Abbotsford goalie David Shantz clean with a quick, hard shot. With two goals on Sunday, Hamilton has scored in three consecutive games.
"Hammer is a heck of a player," said Marlies goalie James Reimer, who stopped 33 shots for the win. "He grinds it out, but he can score pretty goals, too. He showed that today, blocking a shot, then getting it and putting it in.
"There's no better kind of player than that. You love those guys who can sacrifice themselves, then win the game for you."
The Marlies (29-30-11) have picked up at least a point in their last six games. Toronto entered the game five points back of the Manitoba Moose - who hosted the Grand Rapids Griffins later on Sunday - for the North Division's last playoff spot.
With the Heat up by one late in the third, Shantz looked poised to shut out Toronto, but with a sixth attacker on the ice, the Marlies pressed hard and tied the game with 48 seconds remaining when Hamilton banged in a rebound from the lip of the crease.
Gord Baldwin opened the scoring 5:38 into the second, beating Reimer with a wrist shot that was redirected during a stretch of 4-on-4 play.
Toronto had a couple golden chances to equalize late in the second, but failed to convert. First, Hamilton couldn't get the handle on a rebound from a 2-on-1 shot from Alex Foster. Shantz made the initial save and the puck sat just outside the crease, but Hamilton knocked it wide.
Then Kyle Calder broke in alone, but Shantz denied him on a deke attempt.
It seemed like Toronto blew its best chance to tie the score late in the third when they failed to take advantage of a too many men on the ice penalty to Abbotsford (34-26-11), but with Reimer on the bench, Hamilton found the loose puck in front of Shantz and swatted it home.
Hamilton's short-handed winner was the only production either team saw on special teams, posting a combined 0-for-14 with the man advantage.
"Sometimes that's how it works out," said Toronto coach Dallas Eakins. "You can't get anything with the man advantage, but suddenly you can grab one when you're a man short."
Notes: The Marlies hosted their second annual "Salute the Troops" day on Sunday. Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry dropped the puck in the ceremonial opening faceoff in front of roughly 300 Canadian Forces personnel at the game. ... The Heat have four players with brothers in the NHL. Keith Seabrook's brother Brent is a member of the Chicago Blackhawks and won a gold medal with Canada at the Vancouver Olympics, Staffan Kronwall's brother Niklas is a defenceman for the Detroit Red Wings, Olivier Latendresse's younger brother Guillaume is a forward with the Minnesota Wild and Colin Stuart's younger brother Mark is a defenceman with the Boston Bruins. ... Announced attendance was 6,756.