02/07/2013 1:56 PM
Story By: Stuart McComish
TORONTO – Goals have been tough to come by for Louis Leblanc this season, but he found a big one Wednesday night to lift the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 6-4 win over the Toronto Marlies.
Leblanc’s second goal of the game, at 14:41 of the third period, was the winner as he beat netminder Jussi Rynnas in tight at the right post 50 seconds after the Marlies has erased a 4-1 deficit. Gabriel Dumont outduelled a Toronto defender in the corner to Rynnas’s right and fed the puck across the goalmouth where it appeared to carom off the stick of Marlies defenceman Jake Gardiner to Leblanc who shoveled it home.
“I chipped it in and Dumont won the battle and threw it in front,” said Leblanc, who has six goals and eight points in 30 games this season. “I didn’t see it because I was driving the net. I don’t know how it went in. Dumont works hard in every game and practice so it doesn’t surprise me that he got the puck to the net.
“It felt good, we were up 4-1 and had a little letdown and we were able to get the win. Every goal is huge against the Marlies, they can really score. They showed again that they can come back.”
The win was the first of the season in six trips to Toronto for the Bulldogs who will host the Chicago Wolves at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the Texas Stars at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Leblanc, who broke a 19-game goals drought when he scored in a 6-3 road loss to the Rochester Americans on January 21st, restored the Bulldogs’ two-goal lead when he made it 3-1 at 1:57 of the second period, lifting a backhander over Rynnas’s left shoulder from the deep slot.
“I came in hard on the forecheck,” said Leblanc. “I just tried to get the puck on the net. When you aren’t scoring you try and shoot all the time. It’s frustrating, but if you keep working things will happen. I think I am turning the corner from that drought and hopefully I learn from it and become a better player.”
Leblanc missed 11 games in October and November with a high ankle sprain.
“I have to be the best player I can. I have to be perfect in the defensive zone and the best offensive player I can be. Sometimes you are going to score and sometimes you are going to get scored on so it is important to find that balance.”
The game marked Leblanc’s second multi-goal effort of the season against the Marlies as he also scored two in a 4-1 Bulldogs’ win at Copps Coliseum on October 19th. The 22-year-old from Pointe Claire, Quebec, a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft, recorded 10 points, including five goals, in 42 games with the Canadiens last season.
“It feels huge, but you can’t get satisfied. It’s been a tough year for our team. It’s the second game I have played against them when I have scored two goals. I just want to keep working to get back to where I belong in the NHL. I want to do well here so I can hopefully get called up. I want to keep improving my game and helping this team win.
“It’s only one game, but I have to keep going. We have to put some wins together. It feels good to get points, but the win is huge and it’ll give us a little more energy coming back to Hamilton this weekend.”
The Bulldogs took a two-goal lead in the first period on goals by defencemen Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn. Beaulieu scored his third goal of the season at 5:49, beating Rynnas low to the glove side form inside the blue line at 5:49 and Pateryn collected his first professional goal at 16:17, hammering a shot off the right post five seconds into a two-man advantage.
Jamie Devane cut the lead to one at 18:18 as he beat Cedrick Desjardins on a breakaway after exiting the penalty box. After Leblanc’s goal made it 3-1, Tyler Murovich’s second goal of the season gave the Bulldogs a 4-1 lead at 5:09.
The Marlies outshot the Bulldogs 21-6 in the third period. Defenceman Jesse Blacker cued the home side’s comeback at 1:02, beating Desjardins with a shot from high in the right-wing circle and Ryan Hamilton made it 4-3 at 7:06, prompting Bulldogs’ coach Sylvain Lefebvre to call a timeout to settle down his charges.
“I took a time out after the third goal and told them to just play their game, just like they did in the first two periods,” said Lefebvre. “We needed to make sure we didn’t get too rattled and too nervous. They just needed to go out and play and make the right decisions.”
Jerry D’Amigo tied the game at 13:51, beating Desjardins high to the stick side from the high slot.
“After they scored that fourth goal, there was an arena timeout,” said Lefebvre. “I talked to them some more and made some adjustments. The guys refocused and went back at it.”
Desjardins was strong during a Marlies power play at 15:37, turning aside six shots, including two key stops on Gardiner and one each on Spencer Abbott and Simon Gysbers.
Dumont closed the scoring with an empty-net goal at 19:13. The Bulldogs’ six-goal outburst matched their high for the season, set three times previously.
“We got rattled a little bit after they scored their second goal, but what I liked is we battled to the end,” said Lefebvre. “Even when it was 4-4, instead of putting our heads down we kept battling and came up with a big goal and closed it off with the empty netter.
“Leblanc had a good game. We had a bunch of guys chipping in. We want to be a team where everyone contributes one way or another and we did that. No matter your role, just do it, be proud of it and do it for the team.”
The Marlies’46 shots were one off the most the Bulldogs have surrendered this season, which came in a 4-0 road loss to the Lake Erie Monsters on December 29th. The Bulldogs directed 26 shots at Rynnas in picking up their fourth win against the Marlies this season.
“Cedrick was good and our defence played hard,” said Lefebvre. “We tried to keep the shots from the outside as much as possible. They made a big push at the start of the third period and they came right at us. They tried to shoot from everywhere and get rebounds. We were probably opportunistic. It’s a big win and fun to do it here.”