The Hamilton Bulldogs' anaemic power play unit came alive at the right time against the Toronto Marlies.
Ranked 30th with the man advantage, Hamilton scored twice on seven attempts Tuesday, including Nathan Beaulieu's game-winner late in the third period, as the Bulldogs defeated the Marlies 3-2 in the American Hockey League.
Beaulieu says the Bulldogs' specials teams are improving because of the team's increased familiarity with its system.
"The difference is our comfort," Beaulieu said. "We switched up the units a little bit and we were working on our special teams a lot in practice, dialling in on them almost every day with video and on ice work.
"We're drilling it into our heads so that it's second nature to us."
Stefan Chaput and Mike Blunden also scored for the Bulldogs (17-24-6), while Joey Tenute and Gabriel Dumont had three assists each. Robert Mayer made 23 saves in the win.
Will Acton and Joe Colborne had goals for the Marlies (25-17-4). Jussi Rynnas stopped 25-of-28 shots.
Hamilton edged ahead for good at 17:14 of the third after Toronto's Ryan Hamilton was whistled for goaltender interference.
Beaulieu held the puck at the blue-line and waited for traffic to develop in front of Rynnas before releasing a wrist shot that fooled the screened goaltender.
Consecutive penalties in the first five minutes of the opening period put the Bulldogs on the back foot, and the Marlies nearly opened the scoring on their second man-advantage.
Jake Gardiner walked the blue-line and let loose a wrist shot that took a deflection in front of Mayer and glanced off his crossbar before heading wide.
The penalty trouble continued for Hamilton as Joey Tenute was whistled for hooking at 9:43 to put Toronto on its third power play in the first ten minutes of play. But the Bulldogs held the visitors at bay yet again, thanks in large part to a diving shot block by Dumont.
The Marlies struck late in the first to open the scoring when Carter Ashton expertly redirected a dump in to find Acton in space. The touch pass put the centre past his marker and Acton raced in from the left wing and snapped a wrist shot over the Mayer's shoulder at 18:09.
Where the first had been an action-packed period, the second began listlessly, with neither team mounting much in the way of sustained offence.
The Bulldogs provided a rare test for Rynnas with eight minutes to play in the period, firing a three-shot flurry from close range that the goaltender turned away in quick succession.
But Rynnas could do little to hold Hamilton off the scoreboard a minute later after a horrendous giveaway put the puck on Dumont's stick in the high slot. His initial shot was stopped, but Chaput reacted quickly to the rebound and slotted it home at 13:48 to tie the game 1-1.
Toronto reacted swiftly, retaking the lead after Hamilton's Morgan Ellis was whistled for cross-checking at 14:58. Gardiner wheeled to his right and slid a pass to Colborne along the blue-line, who stepped forward and unleashed a slapshot that beat Mayer over the shoulder again.
Hamilton did not trail for long, however, levelling the game 2-2 late in the second period.
With the Bulldogs mounting a successful cycle, Dumont backed off his defenders on the left and dropped the puck to Tenute, who fired a hard slapshot from the faceoff circle that Blunden tipped past Rynnas at 17:30.
The line of Dumont, Tenute and Blunden was consistently dangerous on Tuesday, and Dumont credited the skill of his linemates for his success.
"Playing with Tenute and Blunden, it was going good for us," said the centreman. "We kept things simple, but Joey is a highly skilled player and he can make plays. I was just trying to work hard and use my speed.
"Joey found me all night long, and it was good."
Hamilton looked the more likely of the teams to break the deadlock in the third, narrowly missing the net at the end of two frantic scrums in front of Rynnas with under eight minutes to play.
Note: Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins was assessed a game misconduct and ejected at 17:14 of the third after Hamilton took a 3-2 lead.