HAMILTON, Ont. -- Dustin Tokarski has made his presence felt since being dealt to the Hamilton Bulldogs.
The organized defence in front of him helped Tokarski to record 27 saves and his second consecutive shutout as the Bulldogs defeated the Abbotsford Heat 2-0 in the American Hockey League Tuesday.
Through six starts as a Bulldog since his trade from the Syracuse Crunch, Tokarski now has two shutouts and a save percentage of .960.
The goaltender took little credit for himself, instead praising his teammates for their defensive showing on Tuesday.
"Guys are staying tight and keeping guys to the outside," said Tokarski. "They're giving me a look at the first shot and clearing the rebound if I don't control it.
"I think that the defensive corps has been outstanding in the last couple games and we're looking to keep it going."
Hamilton forward Joey Tenute attributed the improved defence to the Bulldogs' growing chemistry and understanding of their system.
"We're communicating well and doing things that we work on in practice with coverages," said Tenute. "Guys are reading off of each other well. It has a lot to do with this coaching staff and the patience that they've had with some of the guys.
"The guys are rounding into form and some of these young guys are starting to play like veterans back there."
Tenute scored the game winner for the Bulldogs (23-27-6) and Louis Leblanc added an empty-net goal.
Hamilton has rounded into form late in the season, having won nine of its last 13 games.
Leland Irving stopped 21 of 22 shots for the Heat (27-24-8) in a losing effort.
Scoring chances were few and far between for much of Tuesday's game, but Tenute finally broke the scoreless deadlock at 18:48 of the second, with a highlight reel-worthy individual effort.
He carried the puck over the blue-line with speed from the right wing, and with Abbotsford defenders backing off of him, moved in on Irving and lifted a backhand shot past the goaltender's outstretched glove.
"I saw that I had a couple of guys with me, but I know that on a play like that, the goalie will be thinking of the pass," Tenute explained. "So I moved to my backhand and put it upstairs. I saw it go in but I don't think that the ref did.
"It was good timing at the end of the second and gave us some momentum going into the third."
The first scoring chance of the game fell to the Bulldogs three minutes into the first period, with Hamilton enjoying a power play after a bench minor assessed to Abbotsford for having too many men on the ice.
Leblanc led an odd-man rush into the Abbotsford zone and dealt the puck to linemate Steve Quailer in the middle, whose quick wrist shot was kicked aside by Irving. The rebound spilled to Leblanc, but the centreman could only watch as the puck skipped over his stick and to safety.
Chances were few and far between in the second, as both teams struggled to hold possession in the offensive end. Instead, play hung in the neutral zone with the teams remaining at even strength.
The Heat enjoyed a power play late in the second, when Bulldog Jarred Tinordi was whistled for roughing at 14:11. But Abbotsford mustered very little pressure in the ensuing two minutes, and the penalty was served without incident.
Mike Blunden had an opportunity to provide an insurance goal for the Bulldogs five minutes into the third, but fell as a centering pass found him unmarked in the low slot.
Another chance presented itself with four minutes to play, as Leblanc and Blunden broke in on a two-on-one and the former threaded a cross-ice pass to the latter that he missed with an attempted one-time shot.
Leblanc ended any hopes of an Abbotsford comeback when he deposited the puck into the empty net at 19:26.
Hamilton head coach Sylvain Lefebvre indicated that his team is approaching every game with a playoff mentality as the season winds to a close.
"We've been in the playoffs in our minds for a little while here," said Lefebvre. "We just keep plugging away and taking it one game at a time.
"We just focus on the process and not the end result."