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Marlies score four first-period goals, blast Lake Erie 6-1 @NHLdotcom

TORONTO - Captain Ben Ondrus scored his first hattrick as a pro and the Toronto Marlies came out fast and furious in the first period to overwhelm the visiting Lake Erie Monsters 6-1 in a rare penalty-free American Hockey League game on Sunday night.

"That's awesome for him," said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert. "Ben adds so much to our lineup besides offence.

"He's one of those guys you want on your team, on the ice and in the dressing room. He does a lot and it's good to see him contribute offensively."

Ondrus scored 39 seconds into the opening frame and added another goal before the contest was five minutes old as Toronto jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period. He capped his night with Toronto's final goal of the game midway through the third period.

"We were concentrating on putting pucks on net and it worked out for us tonight," said Ondrus, who had eight of Toronto's 33 shots in the game.

"Sometimes you don't score when you get a lot of chances, and sometimes you score when you're not getting the chances. It's a funny thing, tonight the puck was just sitting there for me."

Patrick Wellar, with his first career AHL goal, and Andy Wozniewski also scored in the opening 20 minutes for Toronto, while Bates Battaglia chipped in with a second-period marker in front of 4,059 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.

The victory was Toronto's third in a row and the Marlies have earned points in nine consecutive games (8-0-1) to improve to 46-18-3-6 on the season, securing their hold on first place in the North Division.

The loss was Lake Erie's seventh in its past eight games (1-6-1) as the Monsters fell to 25-36-6-7.

Toronto netminder Justin Pogge, who had a 2-0 cushion before he had even faced a shot, made 24 saves for the victory.

At the other end, Mike Wall stopped 27 shots.

"We talked before the game, we had a big (6-1) win over Manitoba (on Saturday night) and sometimes there's a letdown after a win like that," Gilbert said. "We wanted to come out and jump on (Lake Erie) early, and we did that."

Winger Robbie Earl, meanwhile, collected three assists for his second consecutive three-point game. He had a goal and two assists against the Moose on Saturday night.

Centre Jamie Lundmark had the lone goal for the Monsters.

Ondrus, in his third game back after missing 18 contests with a broken finger, opened the scoring from in front of the Monsters net when he banged home a pass from Earl. A little more than four minutes later, Ondrus made it 2-0 when he knocked in his own rebound after Wellar had won a race to the loose puck behind the net and centred it to the Toronto captain.

Wellar made it 3-0 for Toronto at 11:42 of the opening frame when he took a pass from centre Peter Tsimikalis and beat Wall with a quick wrist shot.

Battaglia scored less than five minutes into the second period to give the Marlies a 5-0 edge before Lundmark finally put the Monsters on the board at 11:05 of the middle frame.

Notes: Marlies rookie defenceman Phil Oreskovic was named the team's recipient of the AHL Man of the Year award for his "outstanding contributions to the Greater Toronto Area community during the 2007-08 season." Oreskovic, 21, is one of 29 finalists for the AHL's Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, which is named in honour of the former Hershey Bears forward who died of leukemia in 1997.

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