HAMILTON, Ont. — Everything that could have gone right did for the Abbotsford Heat in the opening period of their AHL rematch with the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday.
The Heat scored three goals in the first, including two that deflected off a Hamilton defenceman, and held on to beat the Bulldogs 4-3.
Heat centre Ben Walter explained that his team's success in the first period was a product of both luck and hard work.
"Everything was going right for us," said Walter. "We got some good bounces, but we also worked hard. After the last game where we had a tough start against them, we wanted to come out hard and have a better one.
"We put pucks in when we had to, and it was nice to get a couple on the power play too."
Walter had a goal and two assists, while Max Reinhart, Sven Baertschi and Ben Street also scored for the Heat (31-29-9) and Danny Taylor made 24 saves.
Morgan Ellis, Gabriel Dumont and Alex Belzile scored for the Bulldogs (26-33-6), while Robert Mayer stopped 29 shots.
The game began at a breakneck pace, with the Heat scoring just over a minute into the game.
Drew MacKenzie took a speculative wrist shot from the left point that Mayer bobbled, and Walter arrived in the slot to slide the rebound past the Hamilton goaltender at 1:04.
The Bulldogs nearly tied the game a minute later, when defenceman Frederic St. Denis' fluttering wrist shot from the point caught Taylor unaware and hit the far post before bouncing to safety.
Instead, it was the Heat who scored to double their advantage at 6:29, as Walter registered his second point of the opening period.
Abbotsford found itself on the power play when Mayer was whistled for interference. Walter then threaded a pass to Reinhart on the blue-line, and his ensuing slapshot took a big deflection off the stick of Hamilton defender Jarred Tinordi and rocketed over the shoulder of the stunned Mayer.
Special teams let the Bulldogs down on that occasion, but it was Hamilton's own power-play unit that found them their opening goal late in the first.
With Zach McKelvie serving a roughing penalty, the Bulldogs established traffic in front of Taylor and Ellis fired a slapshot that beat the screened goaltender over the far shoulder at 14:25.
Hamilton's momentum proved short-lived, however, as Abbotsford re-established its two-goal lead through another bizarre bounce off the unfortunate Tinordi. Baertschi controlled the puck in the corner, and attempted a centring pass that clipped the skate of the Hamilton defenceman and bounced up and over the shoulder of Mayer at 18:38 of the first.
Walter was credited with an assist on the goal, registering his third point of the period.
Sent down by the Montreal Canadiens earlier Friday, Gabriel Dumont showed his quality to score Hamilton's second goal of the night at 11:22 of the second.
Dumont skated in from the left wing and fired a wrist shot that hit a player in front of goal, but followed up to shovel a second effort past Taylor.
But, just as they had in the first period, the Bulldogs followed a goal by taking a penalty and conceding a power-play goal.
After Greg Pateryn was called for hooking at 12:09, Baertschi took a wrist shot from the right wing that careened off the glass behind the Hamilton net and landed in front of Street, whose weak shot caught Mayer out of position to give the Heat a 4-2 lead at 13:08 of the second period.
Walter was proud of his team's ability to respond to Hamilton's goals.
"That's big for a team when you can answer back like that, especially on the road," said the centreman. "They were starting to get some momentum when they had those goals, and we were able to shut that down."
He credited his team's power play unit for its opportunism.
"We were loose out there," said Walter. "We weren't trying too hard or gripping our sticks too tight. We were just making the plays that were available and taking shots when we could.
"We did get a couple good bounces, so that always helps."
The Bulldogs gained a late consolation goal at 11:40 of the third, when Belzile tipped a pass toward Taylor's net that Abbotsford's McKelvie inexplicably swept past his own goaltender.
Dumont argued that his team made too many mistakes to warrant a win on this occasion.
"I think we gave up too many big scoring chances," said the Bulldog centre. "We had too many major breakdowns on defence. We would be playing really good and then all of a sudden we give up a 3-on-1 or a breakaway for the other team, a big collapse.
"Mayer was there for us tonight but we didn't really help him."