TORONTO -- After watching his team's third straight loss Saturday, Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins didn't have a lot nice things to say about his players.
Magnus Hellberg made 19 saves and the Milwaukee Admirals beat Toronto 3-1 to hand the Marlies their fifth loss in six American Hockey League games.
"I can go right through the team right now," Eakins said. "Especially our group of forwards. I don't have a lot of love for them right now."
Milwaukee took control of the game early, scoring less than two minutes into the game, and Toronto wasn't able to muster much offence until the middle of the third period.
"I didn't like our game right from the drop of the puck," said Eakins. "We wanted to play desperate, we didn't do that. We wanted to play physical, we didn't do that. We wanted to have a net-front presence, we didn't do that. And somehow we were able to hang around in the game and make it interesting.
"We can't just go into these games and think, `OK, we'll just wait until the third, turn it on and feel all nice and fuzzy about ourselves because in the final period we played well."
Brad Winchester, Daniel Bang and Taylor Beck scored for Milwaukee.
Spencer Abbott had the lone goal for Toronto. Drew MacIntyre stopped 26 shots in defeat.
The Marlies are going in a opposite direction of their NHL affiliate, the Maple Leafs, who are 11-7-0 and just two points out of first place in the Eastern Conference. But since the NHL lockout ended, the Marlies are just 5-8-3.
They led the North Division and were one of the top teams in the league prior to the NHL returning, but are now hanging on to one of the bottom two playoff spots in the AHL's Western Conference.
Among the players the Marlies lost to the Leafs are Ben Scrivens, Nazem Kadri, Korbinian Holzer, Michael Kostka, Matt Frattin and Mark Fraser. The team also lost leading scorer Keith Aucoin on waivers to the New York Islanders during NHL training camps.
"We still got a great group of leaders," said captain Ryan Hamilton. "Obviously, losing a bunch of guys up to the Leafs, that's going to affect that team a little bit. But we're not the only ones.
"It's like that across the league, so we can't use that as an excuse. In saying that, we really like what we have here and it's just a matter of getting it going."
It was a tight-checking first period to start the game, with both teams mustering only eight shots apiece and the Admirals scoring the only goal of the period.
Milwaukee (24-21-6) took over the game in the second period, outshooting Toronto 16-6 and scoring the lone goal to take a 2-0 lead.
With about three and half minutes to play in the period, Bang stripped Blacker at the Admirals blue-line with Blacker's partner, Jake Gardiner, in on a pinch. Bang skated in alone on MacIntyre and snapped a wrist shot blocker side for his fourth goal of the season.
"I'd definitely like to stop that breakaway," MacIntyre said. "I feel like that's a save I need to make at a key time. I'm disappointed in that, for sure."
Since returning from a concussion, Gardiner has struggled to get his game back, with no goals and just five points in 11 games in that span.
"I thought Jake was OK," Eakins said. "I thought he was trying to push the envelope a little too hard offensivelyaI've seen him play much worse and I've seen him play much, much better."
The Marlies finally broke through at 8:13 of the third period. Mike Zigomanis blocked a clearing attempt in the Admirals' zone, fed a backhand pass to in the slot to Abbott, who wrister a shot off the crossbar and in past Hellberg.
It was Abbott's sixth goal of the season.
Since the end of the NHL lockout was announced, the Marlies have scored just 41 goals in 16 games (2.56 per game) and allowed 50 (3.13 per game).
Despite their struggles the past month and a half, Toronto remains just two points behind the division-leading Abbotsford Heat, pending the outcome of their game Saturday night.
Notes: Marlies defenseman Paul Ranger sat out his 14th straight game with a concussionaToronto's next game is tomorrow at home against the St. John's IceCapsaAnnounced attendance was 5,030aThe Marlies rank sixth in league attendance at nearly 7,000 per game.