TORONTO - Tim Stapleton's all-star break resolution is paying off.
Stapleton scored three of his four goals in the first period as the Toronto Marlies drilled the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins 10-5 in American Hockey League play Sunday.
Andre Deveaux also had a hat trick for the Marlies, who set a franchise high for goals in a game in front of 3,825 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
"I told myself after the all-star break to shoot a little more," said Stapleton. "I'm one of those guys that's usually looking to pass."
Stapleton keyed a first-period outburst in which the Marlies, after spotting the Griffins the early lead, scored five times in just over six minutes.
"We jumped on them early and that's what got us going," said Stapleton. "It was one of those days and I'm just glad we got the win."
Stapleton, with his team-leading 33 assists, is better known for his playmaking. But he said his recent goal-scoring streak - he now has seven in his last four games - is the result of a conscious adjustment to his game.
Stapleton, last week's AHL player of the week, upped his goal total to 13 on the season. But Toronto coach Greg Gilbert was equally impressed by the diminutive centre's defensive play.
"He sees the ice well, he's got great skill and vision, and he works just as hard without the puck as he does with it," said Gilbert. "It's nice seeing guys have some success from their hard work."
Stapleton and Deveaux were among many offensive stars for the Marlies (24-19-2-5), who also got two goals from Alex Foster and four assists from Jiri Tlusty. Even goaltender Justin Pogge registered an assist in the rout.
Pogge also made 28 saves to record his 17th victory.
Gilbert was pleased with the win, but not with the mental lapses that resulted in five goals against.
"We're trying to build a machine here, a mentally tough team that plays the same way whether they're up by 10 or down by 10," said Gilbert. "(Tonight) when we were doing what we do best, we created opportunities and scored goals, and when we got away from it we gave up opportunities and found ourselves in the penalty box."
Stapleton agreed that Toronto was fortunate not to be punished for its defensive inconsistency.
"When you let in five goals, you don't usually win games."
Goaltenders Daniel Larsson and Jimmy Howard took turns in goal for Grand Rapids (31-11-6-4), but neither was able to hold off the onslaught. Larsson was pulled at the 8:41 mark of the first period after allowing three goals on five shots.
Larsson returned in the second period but was replaced again by Howard after two more pucks found the net behind him.
The Griffins took a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the first period on a goal by Francis Lemieux. After stepping out from the corner, Lemieux swept across the crease and beat the fallen Toronto goaltender on the forehand.
The goal only served to ignite the Marlies' offence. Deveaux scored 38 seconds after Lemieux, ripping a high shot past Larsson.
Stapleton and Foster followed shortly afterward to chase Larsson from the net.
The goaltending switch didn't matter. Less than three minutes after Howard took over, Stapleton redirected a high shot through the netminder's legs. He then banged in a one-timer with the Marlies on the power play to make it 5-1.
Lemieux notched his second goal of the game before the first intermission, but any thought of a Grand Rapids comeback was quickly dashed in the second period. Foster, Anton Stralman and Deveaux scored within a two-minute span to put the game away.
Justin Abdelkader, Evan McGrath and Darren Haydar also scored for Grand Rapids, which went 3-for-5 on the power play.
Toronto scored on five of its seven power-play chances.
Notes: Tlusty's four assists is the most registered by any Toronto player in a game this season. . . . The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Marlies.