HOUSTON, USA – The Hamilton Bulldogs, the farm club of the Montreal Canadiens, can become just the third American Hockey League team to come back from being 3-0 down in a best-of-seven series.
Nigel Dawes scored his second goal of the game at 9:11 of the second overtime, sending Hamilton to a 5-4 road win over Houston on Sunday at the Toyota Center in Game 6 of the American Hockey League Western Conference Finals. The Houston Aeros are the affiliate club of the NHL Minnesota Wild.
The Bulldogs, who once trailed this series by a 3-0 count, have rallied to force a decisive Game 7 on Tuesday night in Houston. The winner will face the Binghamton Senators in the Calder Cup finals. The Calder Cup has been played for since the 1936-37 season.
Hamilton joins the 1960 Rochester Americans and the 1989 Adirondack Red Wings as the only clubs in AHL history to win three straight games in a best-of-7 series after falling into a 3-0 hole; both the Amerks and Red Wings completed the comeback by winning Game 7.
Dawes, who also scored in the second period to give Hamilton a 3-2 lead at the time, was assisted on the game-winner by linemates Aaron Palushaj and Dustin Boyd. It marked the 14th postseason goal for Dawes, setting a Bulldogs franchise record and tying him with Binghamton’s Ryan Potulny for the league lead this spring.
Boyd has also been an overtime hero for Hamilton during this playoff campaign. In Game 7 of the North Division finals vs. Manitoba on May 8, Boyd ended the longest game in the history of the AHL Calder Cup when he scored six seconds into the third OT period at Hamilton.
Boyd finished Sunday’s game with a goal and an assist for Hamilton; defenceman Frederic St. Denis chipped in two assists; and Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre made an AHL playoff-high 57 saves to improve to 10-2 lifetime when facing Calder Cup Playoff elimination.
Swedish national team player Andreas Engqvist (last season at Djurgården Stockholm) also scored twice for the Bulldogs, registering his third and fourth goals of the postseason. An unassisted shorthanded goal by Engqvist just 27 seconds into the third period gave Hamilton a 4-2 lead and seemed to put the Bulldogs on course for a regulation victory.
Engqvist, Boyd, Palushaj and Dawes (who leads all playoff scorers with 14 goals in 19 games) have all had stints with parent Montreal Canadiens this season.
Chad Rau and Warren Peters rounded out Houston’s offence in the losing effort, as the Aeros fell despite holding a commanding 61-38 edge in shots on goal, which includes a 32-10 margin during the second and third periods combined.
The winner of Tuesday’s Game 7 at Houston will hold home-ice advantage against the Binghamton Senators in the 2011 Calder Cup Finals. Binghamton is the farm club of the NHL Ottawa Senators.
Footnote: Three NHL clubs have staged successful playoff comebacks after being 3-0 down in best-of-seven series; the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers (vs. Boston).
With files from AHL.com