HAMILTON, Ont. — A two-goal deficit didn't intimidate the Rochester Americans, who are trying to stay in the playoff picture.
The Americans scored three goals in three minutes in the third period en route to a 4-2 comeback win over the Hamilton Bulldogs in the American Hockey League on Saturday.
Rochester winger Evan Rankin said his team, which is fifth in the Western Conference but just five points ahead of eighth place, is desperate for points.
"With 10 games or so left in this year, every point matters," said Rankin. "So coming out in the third period down a couple of goals, it doesn't really matter. You just have to do whatever you can to get the two points by the end of the game."
Rankin had two goals for the Americans (37-26-4), while Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Matt Ellis also scored and David Leggio made 22 saves in relief of starter Nathan Lieuwen.
Brady Vail and Steve Quailer scored for the Bulldogs (27-33-6), and Dustin Tokarski stopped 26 shots in a losing effort.
"We barely gave (Rochester) anything in two periods," said Hamilton head coach Sylvain Lefebvre . "But we came out in the third and made a few mistakes, and the puck ended up in the net.
"It's very disappointing, because we really were having a good game up to that point, and we just let it go."
The Bulldogs seemed to be well on the way to victory after two periods, but the Americans turned the game on its head in the third.
Rochester denied Tokarski's shutout bid at 3:28 of the period, when Corey Tropp found Rankin in space on the left wing and he skated to the faceoff dot before snapping a quick wrist shot past the goaltender's outstretched glove.
It was Rankin who struck again to level the game a minute and a half later.
The winger skated in from the right and fired a low wrist shot that hit a sliding Bulldog defender, but continued to pressure the puck before Hamilton's Zack Stortini tipped it past his own goaltender at 5:52.
Rochester completed its rapid comeback in another minute, as Gauthier-Leduc's shot from the point travelled untouched through a maze of players in front, and eluded Tokarski at 6:53 of the third.
The Americans added an empty-net goal through Ellis at 18:43.
Leggio — who has two shutouts at Copps Coliseum this season — continued to haunt the Bulldogs. He produced several highlight-reel worthy saves in the third as his team held on to record its comeback victory.
Rankin gave credit to Leggio for his excellent relief appearance on Saturday.
"To be able to come in at the beginning of the second period and still end up with a star at the end of the game, that's pretty impressive," said Rankin. "He shut the door for us and really helped us out."
Vail had the first scoring chance of the night five minutes into the opening period when a Rochester giveaway gave him a clear path to Lieuwen.
He fired a low wrist shot from the slot that Lieuwen kicked aside, but tested the goaltender again on the rebound with a backhand effort.
Vail was frustrated on that occasion, but found his first professional goal four minutes later.
Peter Merth controlled the puck at the right point as traffic gathered in front of Lieuwen, and released a low shot that deflected off Vail as he fell and trickled past the Rochester goaltender at 8:46 of the first.
It was a dominant opening period for the Bulldogs, who outshot their opposition 13-6 and threatened to double their lead on several occasions before the period's end.
Lieuwen had played on after being shaken up in a collision with Hamilton's Joey Tenute in the early minutes of the first, but was replaced by Leggio to begin the second period, having stopped 12 shots.
The physicality of the Bulldogs had them winning puck battles at both ends of the ice in the second, and even while their lead remained at one, they outplayed the Americans by a wide margin in the period.
With less than a minute to play in the second, the line of Quailer, Vail and Leblanc struck for its second goal of the game, as Jarred Tinordi's point shot tipped off the stick of Quailer and bounced past Leggio at 19:16.
Lefebvre was impressed with the line's first outing together.
"They were good," he said. "They were on the puck and they were good on the forecheck and created turnovers. Vail had a couple of chances in the first period, and they scored both of our goals."