Milwaukee Admirals 3 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 4 OT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– Tomas Nosek scored from the left goal line 9:32 into overtime on Friday to give the Grand Rapids Griffins a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Milwaukee Admirals in Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals at Van Andel Arena.
Just after Jared Coreau made a save on the other end, Matt Lorito threw the puck up the left boards past Nosek, who won a race for it deep in the corner and immediately whipped a shot that hit Marek Mazanec but slipped through his pads, sending the crowd of 7,504 into a frenzy.
The Griffins, who improved to 14-11 all time in playoff overtimes, will host Game 2 of the series on Sunday at 4 p.m. Grand Rapids won three of its previous five best-of-five series in which it led 1-0, including last year’s first-round sweep of Milwaukee.
The Admirals took advantage of Brian Lashoff’s second penalty of the opening period to notch the game’s first goal. Off the ensuing faceoff in the Griffins’ zone, Frederick Gaudreau blasted home a shot from above the left circle at 12:08.
Grand Rapids answered with a power play goal of its own with 2:37 remaining in the frame, as Matthew Ford finished off a scrum by reaching out from below the goal line and banging a loose puck inside the left post, sparking a burst of three goals in a span of 1:21 that would result in a 2-2 tie through 20 minutes. Evgeny Svechnikov’s sharp-angle shot from the left corner at 17:36 got past Mazanec and trickled across the line to briefly give the Griffins a 2-1 lead, but Petter Granberg solved Coreau from the high slot with 1:16 left in the period.
The Griffins’ penalty killers took center stage midway through the second. In an odd and uncharacteristic turn of events, Kyle Criscuolo – who amassed only 14 penalty minutes during the regular season, none of them for high-sticking – was whistled off consecutively for a high-sticking minor (7:47) and a high-sticking double-minor (10:05), but Grand Rapids weathered the storms to keep the game tied.
Ironically, it was the Griffins’ AHL-best power play that would betray them at the 16:53 mark. A turnover at the Milwaukee blue line resulted in a shorthanded breakaway for Gaudreau, and he sped in and lifted the puck over Coreau’s glove for his second goal of the night and a 3-2 Admirals lead. Incredibly, it marked the first time Milwaukee scored more than two goals in a playoff game since May 8, 2011, as the Ads had played 14 consecutive postseason contests without lighting the lamp three times.
A defensive mishap by the Admirals led to Lorito’s game-tying tally at 10:45 of the third period. After Adam Pardy knocked the puck from the grasp of his own goalie, Mazanec stopped a point-blank try by Tyler Bertuzzi, but Lorito was waiting near the right post to pop the rebound into a wide-open net.
Milwaukee nearly went ahead during a wild scramble around the Griffins’ cage with 3:30 remaining. Coreau lunged for a rebound in the slot, all but vacating his net, but Joe Hicketts slid across on his backside to keep an Admirals attempt out of the cage and ultimately send the game to overtime.
Both teams had their chances and struggles on the power play, with Grand Rapids going 1 for 7 and Milwaukee converting 1 of 6 opportunities. Coreau earned the win behind 32 saves while Mazanec stopped 38 in defeat.
Notes: Captain Nathan Paetsch appeared in his 60th postseason game as a Griffin, moving past Jeff Hoggan and Travis Richards into sole possession of first place in franchise history…The Griffins opened the playoffs at home for the first time since 2006. Their last six postseason runs (2007; 2009; 2013-16) all started on the road, even though they were the higher seed in three of those series (2013-15)...The crowd of 7,504 was the Griffins’ largest ever for a home playoff game played on or before April 21 as well as their largest for Game 1 of a first-round series.
Three Stars: 1. MIL Gaudreau (two goals, assist); 2. GR Nosek (OT goal, assist); 3. GR Lorito (game-tying goal, assist)