Lake Erie Monsters hand struggling Marlies their fifth home loss in six games

TORONTO – Home-ice wins continue to elude the Toronto Marlies.

The Lake Erie Monsters defeated Toronto 4-1 on Saturday, handing the struggling Marlies their fifth loss in six home games this season.

But with the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair taking over Ricoh Coliseum for the next two weeks, Toronto will hit the road for 10 games looking to improve its league-worst 2-6-0 record.

“Our guys should be frustrated,” said Marlies coach Dallas Eakins. “We had a good start, but then Lake Erie took over the game with their forecheck and they competed harder than we did.

“We haven’t won a lot of games and a lot of guys aren’t playing up to their potential.”

Justin Mercier, Ben Walter, Zach Cohen and Julian Talbot scored for the Monsters (4-5-1), who won for just the second time in eight games. Captain Greg Mauldin added two assists.

Nazem Kadri, with his team-leading fourth goal and eighth point, provided the lone tally for the Marlies before a quiet gathering of 2,040 fans as Toronto lost for the third consecutive contest. The Marlies were limited to one goal for the second straight game.

“All that matters is team success, getting a few wins and getting back on track,” Kadri said. “Maybe getting out of the city and getting away from the pressure is a way to do that.”

Monsters goalie Jason Bacashihua was sharp but wasn’t called upon to make many big saves. Bacashihua’s best stop came midway through the third period with Lake Erie clinging to a one-goal lead when he denied Dale Mitchell’s blast from the slot.

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In all, he stopped 17 shots for the victory.

Marlies netminder James Reimer was busier, stopping 30 shots in a losing effort.

“James is playing better,” said Eakins, confirming that Reimer is the team’s No. 1 starter. “He’s playing with more confidence out there.”

The game was scoreless after the first and Lake Erie led 2-1 to start the third. The Monsters outshot the Marlies 24-13 through two periods and carried the play throughout the game.

Kadri opened the scoring early in the second when his wrist shot beat Bacashihua low to the blocker side at 2:39. Toronto’s lead was shortlived, however, as Mercier’s wrist shot from the slot went over Reimer’s shoulder at 5:20.

Walter gave the Monsters a 2-1 edge when he finished off a pretty three-way passing play from the left faceoff circle at 12:18.

Cohen’s slapshot from the left point beat a screened Reimer at 14:35 of the third before Talbot rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal at 18:44.

Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play.

“A change of scenery, a change of pace, might help us get going,” said Marlies captain Alex Foster. “When we saw the schedule at the start of the season (with seven of nine games in October at home), we wanted to get out to a quick start.

“But that didn’t happen. Hopefully this trip will help us take some of the pressure off.”

The Marlies begin their extended road trip in San Antonio on Wednesday. Their next home game will be Nov. 20 against Hamilton.