TORONTO - Without much left to play for, James Reimer gave the Toronto Marlies some hope for the future.
The Marlies goaltender stopped all five shots he faced in the shootout to lead Toronto to a 3-2 victory over the visiting Hamilton Bulldogs in American Hockey League play Saturday.
"We were going at them hard all game," Reimer said. "We had a couple of mistakes in the first period, but I thought we played a heck of a game from start to finish."
Those mistakes in the opening frame led to Hamilton goals by defenceman Chad Anderson and rookie forward Hunter Bishop, who both had two points on the day. Bishop, playing just his ninth professional game after completing his season at Ohio State University, was shifty all afternoon.
"Absolutely, I know what you mean," Reimer said when Bishop's dangerous play was mentioned. "He looks like a pretty good player."
Bishop made it 2-0 for the Bulldogs at 18:01 of the first when he picked up a puck at the Marlies blue-line and skated down the right side 2-on-1 with Dany Masse. Bishop kept the puck and made a slick deke to get around a sprawling Toronto defenceman in close before roofing the puck over Reimer's blocker to the top part of the net for his second of the year.
"It's hard to come out stomping when the game doesn't mean anything," said Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins, whose team was eliminated from the playoff race a week earlier. "We had a little talk about it after the first period and I thought that we were better in the second and third."
The Marlies (33-34-6) out-shot the Bulldogs (52-17-11 ) 13-3 in the second period, but were unable to beat Hamilton goalie Robert Mayer, who was making his AHL debut. Mayer stopped 25 shots in regulation and overtime. At the other end, Reimer made 16 saves.
In the third period, the shots began going in for the Marlies. Richard Greenop's second goal of the season broke Mayer's shutout bid 3:52 into the third period. Some good work along the boards ended with the puck on defenceman Phil Oreskovic's stick at the right point. He let a low, hard shot go that Greenop tipped from the high slot past Mayer's outstretched pad.
Then at the 18:31 mark, Foster picked up the puck in the Hamilton zone 1-on-3 and scored his ninth of the year to tie the game. He created some space for himself with a nifty change of direction then let a low wrist shot go that caught Mayer napping. The puck just squeezed through the rookie's pads and dribbled over the goal-line, thrilling the home fans.
A heated overtime included a spirited fight between Toronto's Andre Deveaux and Hamilton's Alex Henry, but solved nothing on the scoreboard.
The shootout saw more posts hit (two) than goals scored (one).
"I felt it graze my blocker," said a smiling Reimer of the shot that went off his post in the shootout. "I heard the ping and looked around saw it squirting out. There was a sight of relief."
Marlies rookie Phillippe Paradis beat Mayer with a wrist shot through the five-hole for the lone goal.
Reimer made five saves to Mayer's four.
It's been an up-and-down season for Reimer. The 22-year-old Winnipeg, Man., native suffered a high ankle sprain earlier in the year that cost him weeks of playing time. But he had posted excellent numbers heading into the contest against Hamilton, a 13-8-2 record, 2.27 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in 25 games.
"He's an excellent kid, an excellent person," Eakins said of Reimer, the 99th overall pick by the Maple Leafs in 2006. "His development was stunted this year, he was out for a long time. This will be a big summer for him, for his conditioning and working on the things that (Maple Leafs goalie coach) Francois Allaire is trying to teach him.
"But he's a diligent kid, so I have no worries about him."
The Marlies play their third game in three days Sunday versus the Abbotsford Heat to close out their regular season. The Bulldogs are off until Thursday when they open the playoffs at Copps Coliseum against either the Heat or the Manitoba Moose.
Notes: It was 'Bring Your Dog to the Game Day' at Ricoh Coliseum, 60 pooches watched from the stands. . . Saturday's game was the 12th meeting between the two teams this season, Hamilton won the series 6-4-2. . . QMJHL player Olivier Fortier, 20, made his professional debut with Hamilton; OHLer Jamie Devane, 19, debuted for the Marlies. . . With the point, Hamilton set an AHL record for road points in a season with 60.