Milwaukee Admirals 2 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A pair of goals by Tyler Bertuzzi – including one of Grand Rapids’ two empty-netters in the final minute – paced the Griffins to a 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday, staking them to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals.
Bertuzzi’s seventh game-winning goal of his playoff career extended his franchise record, while his 16 total goals tie Derek King and Tomas Tatar for second among Griffins postseason performers behind Teemu Pulkkinen’s 22.
After prevailing on Friday in overtime and again tonight in what was essentially another one-goal game, the Griffins will have a chance to close out the Admirals in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Game 3 is set for 8 p.m. EDT at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Eric Tangradi scored on the Griffins’ first shot just 25 seconds into the contest, rushing into the Milwaukee zone and taking an innocent-looking wrister above the left circle that snuck by the blocker of Marek Mazanec. But the Admirals answered soon after, as Vladislav Kamenev had several whacks at the puck at the left post before finally stuffing it past Jared Coreau at 2:12.
Grand Rapids again went ahead at the 8:37 mark when Axel Holmstrom drifted away from his defender in the slot and slammed home a centering pass fromEvgeny Svechnikov.
Bertuzzi extended the Griffins’ lead to 3-1 by scoring from the top of the right circle 6:23 into the second period. After being sprung from the penalty box, he took a pass from Matthew Ford at center ice, carried the puck into Milwaukee’s zone on a 2-on-1 and snapped a shot inside the near post.
The middle of the third period featured an incredible stretch of penalty killing by the Griffins. Colin Campbell and Dominic Turgeon played keep-away with the puck below the Admirals’ goal line before pinning it in the left corner, combining to kill off 40 seconds of a Svechnikov hooking penalty and earning a rousing ovation from the 6,529 partisans.
Milwaukee pulled within one at 12:35 on Frederick Gaudreau’s third goal of the series from the right circle, and the visitors continued to build up what was eventually a healthy 11-6 shot advantage for the period, rebounding from a dismal middle frame in which Grand Rapids out-shot them 14-5.
The Admirals called timeout with just over 90 seconds left and pulled Mazanec for an extra attacker, leaving a vacated net for Bertuzzi to score into at 19:07. Mazanec stayed on the bench, and Ford converted a pass from Tangradi for another empty-netter with 16 seconds remaining.
Coreau improved his career playoff record to 4-2 behind 21 saves while Mazanec stopped 23 of the 26 shots he faced. Each goaltender helped thwart the opponent’s power play, with Grand Rapids going 0-for-4 and Milwaukee failing on three opportunities.
Notes: Tangradi’s goal was the Griffins’ fastest to start a playoff game since May 22, 2006, when Kent McDonell tallied 15 seconds into Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals versus Milwaukee…Since being swept in four games by Milwaukee during that 2006 series, the Griffins have won their last five playoff games against the Admirals, including last year’s three-game sweep in the first round…The Griffins have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series for the fifth time. They’ve claimed the last three such series, with the only loss coming in 1997 in their first-ever playoff appearance (IHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Orlando).
Three Stars: 1. GR Bertuzzi (two goals); 2. GR Holmstrom (goal); 3. GR Tangradi (goal, assist)