HAMILTON, Ont. -- A familiar problem plagued the Hamilton Bulldogs in the final game of their American Hockey League season on Sunday.
The Bulldogs could do nothing to convert their scoring chances as Rochester's Matt Hackett made 30 saves to backstop the Americans to a 4-1 win over Hamilton, as the two teams concluded regular season play.
Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre bemoaned his team's missed opportunities in the loss.
"We had some good scoring chances in the second period and their goalie made some big saves," said Lefebvre. "We just couldn't get another one.
"We tried to push through in the third, but (Rochester) made us pay when we tried to push the pace."
Matt Ellis, Maxime Legault, Phil Varone and Frederick Roy scored for the Americans (43-29-4), who had already booked their place in the post-season before Sunday's game.
Frederic St. Denis scored the lone goal for the Bulldogs (29-41-6), and Jacob Gervais-Chouinard stopped 32 shots in a losing effort.
Hamilton finished the 2012-13 season with the worst record in the AHL.
The Americans opened the scoring at 6:52 of the first period, when Legault put his touch on display in front of the net.
Luke Adam carried the puck over the blue-line and fired a wrist shot toward Legault that the winger managed to tip between his legs and just inside Gervais-Chouinard's far post.
That initial burst of offence gave way to a lacklustre spell, during which the two teams spent the majority of their time in the neutral zone.
Hamilton's Louis Leblanc provided a measure of excitement with three minutes to play in the opening period, stealing the puck from a flat-footed Rochester defenceman and breaking in alone on Hackett.
He stickhandled into the low slot before attempting a final, wide deke and losing control of the puck.
The Bulldogs seized momentum early in the second period, after levelling the game on the power play at 4:39.
With Rochester's Mark Mancari serving a minor penalty for cross-checking, Hamilton struck with the man-advantage, as St. Denis' low shot from the point saw its way through traffic and the five-hole of Hackett.
The goal seemed to give new life to the Bulldogs, who immediately pressed for the lead.
Hackett produced a stellar save to deny Adam Ross his first goal of the season, picking the defenceman's slap shot out of the air with his catching glove with 11 minutes to play in the second.
Hackett's efforts paid dividends minutes later, when the Americans retook the lead at 12:50.
Jason Beattie held off a check along the boards, and threaded a cross-ice pass to Ellis, who found himself alone in the low slot.
The winger immediately moved to his backhand, and slid the puck past the sprawling Gervais-Chouinard.
Hamilton searched frantically for an equalizer as the third period wore on, and came closest to finding that goal with six minutes to play.
Hackett juggled an initial shot from the point, and as the rebound bounced to his left, Bulldog Zack Stortini had an open net in front of him, but could only tap a shot into Hackett's pads.
St. Denis noted that the Bulldogs' inability to score was nothing new.
"I thought that we kept battling in the third period, but we've been struggling all season to score goals, and tonight was no different," said the defenceman.
"In the last few games, we've scored no goals, or one goal. That's not enough to win games in any league."
Rochester gained some insurance in the form of a third goal at 17:41 of the final period.
The puck bounced to Varone in the low slot, and he corralled it and moved to his forehand side before slotting a shot past Gervais-Chouinard.
Mere seconds later, Roy added a goal into the empty net to cement the victory at 18:06.
A number of young players were added to the Bulldogs' roster in the team's final weeks, and Lefebvre was optimistic about his team's future.
"We're going to do our best to have a better team, and all of those young guys who had the experience this year, are going to be a year older and more mature," said the coach.
"I think that we'll be okay."