HAMILTON, Ont. -- The Hamilton Bulldogs looked uncomfortable on home ice on Friday after a lengthy road trip.
The Bulldogs allowed four goals in the opening period, as the Lake Erie Monsters coasted to a dominant 6-2 victory in the American Hockey League.
"Obviously, that wasn't the start that we wanted," said Hamilton head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. "I don't know if it was because of our long road trip and us just coming back. But we weren't ready to start."
Andrew Agozzino scored twice for the Monsters (33-30-10), while John Negrin, Luke Walker, Paul Carey and Dean Strong each had goals. Calvin Pickard stopped 22 shots for the win.
Kyle Hagel and Michael Bournival scored for the Bulldogs (28-37-6).
Jacob Gervais-Chouinard made 17 saves in his first professional appearance, after relieving Hamilton starter Dustin Tokarski in the first period.
Lefebvre praised the young goaltender for his effort in relief.
"It's tough to come in like that," said Hamilton's coach. "Good thing it was early in the game so that he didn't get too cold. I thought he did fine."
Emotions were running high from the opening whistle, as a contentious hit by the Bulldogs Joey Tenute behind the Lake Erie net caused a lengthy stoppage less than a minute into the game.
Tenute was assessed a five-minute penalty for boarding and a game misconduct, while Lake Erie's Daniel Maggio was ejected with an instigator penalty.
With winger Steve Quailer also leaving the game with an injury, the Bulldogs were limited to three lines on Friday.
Hagel admitted that the changes posed a challenge, but should not stand as an excuse for Hamilton's play.
"Joey is one of our best point-scoring forwards, and it's tough to lose him for the night," said Hagel. "But we're all comfortable with playing with each other. Just because the combinations weren't what they were at the start of the game doesn't make it an excuse."
The victim of Tenute's aggression, Monster centre Joey Hishon, was helped off the ice by teammates and did not return.
Lake Erie took the initiative immediately after the stoppage, and opened the scoring through Negrin only 46 seconds into the game.
A crowd developed in front of Tokarski as the defenceman controlled the puck at the blue-line, and when Negrin released a well-placed wrist shot, it caught the Hamilton goaltender off guard.
A defensive breakdown by the Bulldogs allowed the Monsters to double their advantage at 4:30 of the first.
Tyler McNeely caused a turnover behind the Hamilton net and quickly found Walker with a centring pass. The winger did the rest, moving to his backhand and slotting the puck past Tokarski.
Tokarski's forgettable night worsened, as Agozzino stretched Lake Erie's lead to 3-0 with a simple tap in at 7:32 of the first.
Tomas Vincour led a break from the left wing, and steered the puck past a sprawling Bulldog defenceman, leaving only Tokarski between the Monsters and their third goal. The winger slid a short cross-ice pass to Agozzino, who nudged the puck across the line from close range.
When Carey produced a highlight-reel deke and found the Monsters' fourth goal at 12:50 of the opening period, he brought a merciful end to Tokarski's night.
Tokarski was replaced in Hamilton's net by Gervais-Chouinard after allowing four goals on five shots.
The pace slowed considerably in the second, with few scoring chances at either end of the ice.
The Bulldogs showed signs of life in the final minutes of the period, as Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon threatened twice with wrist shots from the high slot.
It was Lake Erie, however, that would add to its lead to begin the third period.
Vincour's initial shot was saved, but Agozzino pounced on the ensuing rebound to stretch the Monsters' advantage to 5-0, 24 seconds into the third.
Lake Erie's sixth and final goal came minutes later, as Strong batted a rebound past Gervais-Chouinard amid a goal-mouth scrum at 5:07 of the period.
Small consolation came for the Bulldogs when Hagel broke Pickard's shutout bid at 5:57 of the third, as he shifted past a Monster defenceman and broke in alone on the goaltender, flipping a wrist shot over his far shoulder.
With the game winding to a close, Pickard was left to rue a loose moment, as Bournival scored the Bulldogs' second goal at 15:08 of the third.
The Hamilton forward circled out from the goal-line and fired a wrist shot from a bad angle that found its way past the crouched Pickard.