Carl Klingberg isn’t your prototypical fourth-liner and proved the point Saturday, scoring three times to lead the St. John’s IceCaps to their first American Hockey League win at Mile One Centre, a 6-2 victory over Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Swedish rookie right-winger has skated on a line with veteran centre Garth Murray through the first four games of the 2011-12 AHL season for St. John’s (3-1). Shawn Weller was the left-winger for two road games in New England to start the season, with another first-year forward, John Albert, filling the slot in the IceCaps’ home-opening weekend series against the Bulldogs.
Nominally, it is the IceCaps’ fourth line, which usually identifies it as a checking unit. And indeed, it has performed well in that role — whatever its player makeup — regularly dominating the opposition. Murray hasn’t picked up a point in four games, but has a plus-three rating. So has Albert, who registered three assists Sunday.
Klingberg is plus two. He also has a team-leading four goals after, what was for him, a rare hat-trick performance.
“Not in the (Swedish) Elite League,” he answered when asked the last time he scored three goals, “maybe had some in juniors, but I don’t even think I had that,”
The first of his markers Saturday came 3:24 into the opening period as he fired a rebound of an Albert shot past Bulldogs’ goalie Nathan Lawson, who had stopped all 40 shots he faced Friday as Hamilton blanked St. John’s 4-0 in the IceCaps’ franchise home-opener.
“You don’t say it, but of course you want that goal as fast as possible and (on Saturday) it was real fast,” said Klingberg, who said the tension-relief on the IceCaps’ bench was noticeable once Lawson’s shutout streak was ended.
“Of course, (with) the first goal and taking the lead, everybody was happy with that and everybody was going on harder, but it doesn’t matter really who does it. It could be a fight or a good save or a hit, something that gives energy to a team
“Today, it was a fast goal.”
Corner Brook native Jason King, who also had an assist, Marco Rosa and Riley Holzapfel had the other goals for the IceCaps, playing before their second full house of 6,247 in as many nights. But this time, the crowd went home much happier.
“The home-opener didn’t go as we thought it should (even though) the crowd was cheering for us. We wanted to give them something to really cheer for ... like a win,” said Klingberg, the 34th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
“He’s been real strong from training camp to now. He keeps showing signs of why he was drafted where he was,” said IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge.
“He’s got to continue consistency and keep building off this (but) he has some real offensive upside. He can slide in on a top line or fourth line.”
Gabriel Dumont and Dany Masse scored on Saturday for the Bulldogs (2-1) , the farm team of the Montreal Canadiens.
Peter Mannino made 20 saves for St. John’s, while Lawson was busy again, facing 41 shots.
David Aebischer got the start in goal for St. John’s on Friday, surrendering four goals on 22 shots.
Despite getting a half-dozen goals in Saturday’s rematch, St. John’s continued to struggle on the power play, going zero-for-seven on man-advantages in the game, making them zero-for-15 in the series and one-for-20 on the season. They did, however get their second shorthanded tally, this one coming on Klingberg’s second goal of the game.
The IceCaps continue what will be a six-game home stand when they host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the New York Islanders’ AHL affiliate, Friday and Saturday at Mile One.