TORONTO – Justin Abdelkader scored two goals, but Tim Stapleton and Jiri Tlusty continued their strong play against the Grand Rapids Griffins, combining for three goals in a 5-4 loss to Toronto in the Ricoh Center on Valentine’s Day. Stapleton and Tlusty have scored 13 points in the last two games against the Griffins.
Daniel Larsson stopped 22 shots as the Griffins (31-13-6-5) tried to gain redemption for the 10-5 loss they suffered in Toronto six days ago. Justin Pogge was in net for the Marlies (26-19-2-5), turning aside 23-of-27 Griffins shots. Darren Haydar picked up another two assists, extending his point streak to a Griffins season-high seven games (4-7-11).
Anton Deveaux hooked up with Jeremy Williams to put the Marlies on the scoreboard 7:35 into the contest. Deveaux controlled the puck behind the net and sent a pass to Williams, who wristed a shot inside the right goalpost from the slot. Richard Petiot made it 2-0 at the 12:51 mark of the first when he converted on the rebound of a Kyle Rogers shot that Larsson kicked into the slot with his right pad.
Abdelkader brought the Griffins back to within one when he scored from his knees just 24 seconds after the Petiot goal. Logan Pyett took a shot from the point that hit a Toronto stick and dropped into the slot. While the Marlies were still trying to locate the loose puck, Abdelkader backhanded it from his knees in the high slot to make the score 2-1.
Stapleton and Tlusty, who combined for four goals and four assists in the 10-5 win against the Griffins six days ago, were at it again on Saturday. Tlusty broke up the left side and sent a no-look pass into the slot for a streaking Stapleton, who snapped a wrist shot past Larsson 1:17 into the second period. Tlusty scored a goal of his own with 5:45 left in the middle period, taking a long pass and splitting two defenders before beating Larsson to the stick side to make the score 4-1.
Abdelkader roofed the puck from the slot after a nice pass from behind the net by Garrett Stafford just 48 seconds after the Tlusty goal for a power-play tally. Sergei Kolosov cut the lead to one with a blast from the left point after a faceoff win by Evan McGrath 57 seconds after that, but Stapleton scored his second goal of the game, once again off an assist from Tlusty, to re-establish a two-goal Marlies lead with 2:59 left in the second period.
The flurry of second-period scoring concluded with Stafford’s wrap-around goal with 43 seconds left in the middle stanza. Coincidentally, the goal also ended the scoring in the game, as Toronto held on for the 5-4 win.
Three Stars: 1. TOR Stapleton (2 goals); 2. TOR Tlusty (Goal, 2 assists); 3. GR Abdelkader (2 goals)