HAMILTON - The Hamilton Bulldogs learned the tough way they can't score six goals every night.
Michael Davies scored two goals and Matt Climie stopped all 22 shots he faced as the Chicago Wolves defeated the Bulldogs 3-0 in the American Hockey League on Friday.
"It's unacceptable, coming home, particularly after a win in Toronto the other night," said Hamilton head coach Sylvain Lefebvre two days after a 6-4 win over the Marlies.
"We can't expect that just because we scored six goals the night before, that it's going to be easy."
Kevin Connauton also scored for Chicago (24-15-5) in the win.
Cedrick Desjardins made 36 saves for Hamilton (15-24-6) in a losing effort.
Chicago raced out to an early lead at 2:51 of the first, when Devin DiDiomete sent Davies in on a breakaway with a long, pinpoint pass through the middle and the forward moved to his backhand to elevate the puck above Desjardins' right shoulder.
If their first goal had been a thing of beauty, the Wolves' second was far from it.
The Vancouver Canucks affiliate doubled its lead less than a minute later when a wayward pass through the slot was corralled by Connauton along the boards and the defenceman released a speculative wrister that fooled Desjardins on the short side.
The slow start came as a shock to the Bulldogs.
"We were definitely surprised," said Hamilton forward Mike Blunden. "The other night in Toronto, we came out and were going in the first 20 minutes.
"I don't know what happened tonight but we were just sitting back. For the first two goals, we were just dazed, watching them go."
The Bulldogs enjoyed their best chance to score with 3:30 to play in the period, when Patrick Holland's backhand pass found a speeding Joey Tenute on the right wing, and the centre broke in alone on Climie. But the Chicago goaltender was equal to the challenge, dropping into a controlled butterfly to deny Tenute's wrister from close range.
The Wolves, much as they had in the first, struck quickly to open the second period, and it was Davies who provided the finish at 2:28.
He carried the puck over the Hamilton blue-line and decided to shoot upon hitting the top of the right circle, producing a wicked wrister that deflected off the crossbar above Desjardins' far shoulder and in.
The quiet second period was largely devoid of scoring chances at either end of the ice, but Hamilton threatened with two minutes to play.
Tyler Murovich found room to advance from the left wing and slid a cross-ice pass to Stefan Chaput, whose quick shot from the slot narrowly missed the left post.
Climie was rarely tested in Chicago's net, but denied the few scoring chances Hamilton did have in the third to preserve his third shutout of the season.
The Bulldogs enjoyed their most organized power play of the night two minutes into the period, and Blunden forced a sharp pad save from Climie after receiving a centring pass in the slot.
More often than not, it was Hamilton's own inability to provide the final touch that kept it off the scoreboard.
Blunden was presented with a golden opportunity to score the Bulldogs' first goal with seven minutes to play, when he shed his defender and sped to the front of the net.
But the winger was unable to connect on the centring pass that followed, and smashed his stick on the ice in disgust when his shift came to an end.
"I'm a little snake-bitten right now, and I've just got to keep shooting," said Blunden. "I just tried to keep shooting and made sure that I hit the net. That last one, where I missed the net, I was a little upset.
"But I've got to keep putting the pucks to the net and try to get one here."
The Bulldogs will have very little time to dwell on their performance before welcoming the Texas Stars to Copps Coliseum on Saturday.
Blunden indicated that a quick turnaround could be a blessing for the Bulldogs.
"Tomorrow's a new day," he said. "We can change things around with a win here. But we definitely have to learn from what happened here tonight and be ready to go tomorrow."