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Stapleton nets shootout winner in NHL debut

Tim Stapleton scored the decisive shootout goal in his National Hockey League debut on Thursday night, giving the Toronto Maple Leafs a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y.

"I didn’t even know I scored until I curled after the shot and saw my teammates jump off the bench," Stapleton said. "I’m just fortunate it went in."

Stapleton, who is tied for the AHL lead with seven shootout goals (in 10 attempts) this season, was recalled on Wednesday night and had three shots on goal and 14:33 of ice time in his debut, leading all Leafs forwards with 4:50 of power-play time.

The 26-year-old Stapleton was undrafted out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and signed with Toronto last June after two seasons in Finland.

Stapleton leads the Toronto Marlies and ranks 11th in the AHL with 54 points (16 goals, 38 assists) in 51 games this season. His first full AHL campaign included a four-goal night on Feb. 8 vs. Grand Rapids and a selection as the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Feb. 1.

Stapleton is one of 120 American Hockey League graduates to make their NHL debuts during the 2008-09 season.