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Tim Stapleton scores two goals to lead Marlies past Griffins 5-4 @NHL

TORONTO - The red-hot Tim Stapleton scored two goals as the Toronto Marlies downed the Grand Rapids Griffins 5-4 on Saturday afternoon.

Jiri Tlusty added a goal and two assists and Jeremy Williams, who's played just one hockey game since injuring his shoulder at the end of December, contributed a goal in his first contest with the Marlies since Dec. 6.

Richard Petiot also tallied for Toronto and Bates Battaglia added three helpers before 2,817 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.

Toronto has now strung together three straight wins, scoring 26 goals over that stretch.

Justin Abdelkader, with two, Sergei Kolosov and Garrett Stafford replied for Grand Rapids, which has dropped four straight.

Stapleton now has 10 goals and three assists for 13 points over his last six games, including a four-goal effort six days ago in a 10-5 drubbing of Grand Rapids. The Marlies and Griffins combined for 24 goals in their last two head-to-head matchups.

Tlusty, meanwhile, has five goals and eight assists for 13 points in his last six games while playing right wing on a line centred by Stapleton. Both players are on six-game point streaks.

Unfortunately for Toronto, its defence wasn't nearly as effective as its offence, as Grand Rapids refused to be buried under the onslaught of Toronto's attack.

Every time it appeared the Marlies were ready to pull away, the Griffins responded by closing the gap. Grand Rapids scored three goals in the final five minutes of the second period, while surrendering one to Stapleton, turning a 4-1 game into a one-goal nail-bitter entering the final frame.

But after combining for six second-period goals, the teams played a scoreless third.

Toronto goalie Justin Pogge, who wasn't airtight over the first 40 minutes, made some key saves to preserve the lead.

Both of Stapleton's goals were displays of pure skill

The first came just 1:17 into the middle frame and put the Marlies up 3-1. Stapleton fired a hard shot that beat Griffins goalie Daniel Larsson to the stick side, clanked off the post and went in the net.

His second goal was eerily similar, as Stapleton once again showed pinpoint accuracy by firing a shot off the inside of the post and in. This time, he beat Larsson to the glove side. That marker gave Toronto a short-lived 5-3 advantage.

Tlusty's marker was a pretty one as well, as he hopped on a loose puck inside the Grand Rapids' blue-line, burst toward the goal on a quick breakaway and beat Larsson with a shifty deke.

The goal provided Toronto with a three-goal cushion, but Abdelkader responded just 48 seconds later to pull his team back in it.

Williams' goal opened the scoring 7:35 into the first.

NOTES: Ryan Hollweg, on loan from the Toronto Maple Leafs, did not record a point in his first game with the Marlies this season. ... The Marlies have now played six contests on an 11-game home stand and host the Springfield Falcons tomorrow at 4 p.m. Hall of Famer Paul Coffey dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off.

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