HAMILTON, Ont. -- The Hamilton Bulldogs' inability to capitalize on their first-period chances came back to haunt them on Sunday.
After outshooting the Utica Comets 17-7 in the opening period, the Bulldogs had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
Instead, the Bulldogs conceded the game's first goal early in the second period, and dropped their fourth consecutive decision, and fifth in their past six games.
Joacim Eriksson made 29 saves as the Comets defeated the Bulldogs 3-1 in American Hockey League action.
"We played a good first period, and to come out with no score after one, maybe we deserved a better fate," said Hamilton head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. "But in the second period, we didn't play well at all.
"In the third, when they scored their goal, it looked like we put our heads down instead of rolling up our sleeves."
Zach Hamill, Alexandre Grenier and Colin Stuart scored for the Comets (2-8-2), who have now won two consecutive games after opening their season on a ten-game losing streak.
Sven Andrighetto had the lone goal for Hamilton (5-5-3), while Dustin Tokarski made 29 saves in a losing effort.
The Bulldogs outplayed and outpossessed the Comets in the opening period, but had few clear chances to score despite their puck possession, settling instead for shots from the perimeter.
"We need to be more assertive and shoot to score, instead of shooting just to get the puck on net," said Lefebvre. "We need to drive the net with more authority. There are things that you can do, but you can't get frustrated."
Utica forward David Booth had his team's best chance in an otherwise disjointed period, when he streaked into the attacking zone from the left and fired a high wrist shot that forced an alert glove save from Tokarski with 4:30 left to play.
Hamilton was lacking a finishing touch and Andrighetto wasted his team's clearest opportunity to score when he chose to pass rather than shoot while on the backhand in the low slot.
A bright start to the second for the Comets, the farm team of the Vancouver Canucks, culminated in the game's first goal at the 2:14 mark of the period.
Pascal Pelletier carried the puck down the right wing and centred for a streaking Hamill. The pass never made it to the winger's stick, and instead clipped off of his near skate and slid past Tokarski.
Momentum was suddenly with Utica, and Nicklas Jensen had two wide-open chances to double the visitors' lead a minute later. The winger was stationed in the high slot without a defender, and took two one-time shots, with the first hitting Tokarski's crossbar and the second going just wide of his near post.
Hamilton was pinned back for much of the second period, but managed to find a breakthrough against the run of play at 19:05, when Andrighetto scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Mike Blunden's initial shot was saved, but the rebound off Eriksson went to Andrighetto, who easily fired it high and into the open net.
The Swiss rookie has taken hold of a spot in Hamilton's top six, and said that he is looking to repay his coach's faith in him.
"I feel comfortable, and I think that I've worked hard outside of the rink as well," said Andrighetto. "The coach is giving me a lot of trust in playing me with St. Pierre and Blunden right now. That's great, because I think I can learn a lot from those guys.
"I want to repay that trust with my performances on the ice."
Booth put his speed on display to open the third period, accelerating past a Hamilton defender and moving to the backhand side, where Tokarski slid to smother his point-blank effort.
Utica retook the lead with another fortunate bounce, as Peter Andersson's low shot from the point deflected off the skate of Morgan Ellis and straight to Grenier on the right wing, and he easily slotted a wrist shot past Tokarski at 2:59 of the third.
A flurry in front of the Comets' net with nine minutes to play seemed destined to yield a Bulldog equalizer, but neither Akim Aliu nor Ben Duffy could bat a bouncing puck past Eriksson.
Stuart put the game beyond doubt, scoring into an empty net with nine seconds left in the game.