SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Barracuda used an early surge, a trio of power play goals and a late empty-netter to take a 4-2 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday at the SAP Center, tying the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals at one game apiece.
San Jose set a Griffins playoff record for an opponent by firing 20 shots during an opening period in which it scored on its first two power play tries, part of a 3-for-5 performance on the night. Grand Rapids clawed back to tie the score on goals byTomas Nosek and Matthew Ford, but the Barracuda quickly broke that deadlock before withstanding a third-period push by the visitors to even the series.
The conference finals now shift to Van Andel Arena for the next three games, as the Griffins will host a California playoff foe for the first time. Games 3, 4 and 5 will take place in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.each night.
While the Griffins avoided punishment during San Jose’s six power play chances in Game 1, the Barracuda made them pay for their first two transgressions tonight. With Evgeny Svechnikov in the penalty box on an early hooking call, Julius Bergman’s slap shot from the right point found the far corner of Jared Coreau’s net 3:35 into the game, snapping the Griffins’ streak of 20 straight opponent power plays killed.
Grand Rapids fired four fruitless shots on Troy Grosenick during its first advantage of the night before San Jose converted its second opportunity midway through the opening frame. After Tyler Bertuzzi was whistled off for roughing, it took the Barracuda only 15 seconds to increase their lead to 2-0, as Ryan Carpenter set up in the slot to redirect Tim Heed’s feed from the left boards past Coreau’s glove at 10:44.
During a third San Jose power play in that period, Coreau made a huge left pad save on Barclay Goodrow from point-blank range with five minutes remaining to keep the visitors’ deficit at two, a stop that proved even more valuable when Nosek put Grand Rapids on the board with 2:50 left. Bertuzzi threw the puck on net from just inside the blue line, and Nosek was waiting at the right post to backhand the rebound off the crossbar and down over the line to make it a 2-1 game.
The Griffins had several scoring chances during another power play midway through the second that were thwarted by Grosenick, then it was Coreau’s turn to shine with under nine minutes left when he stuck out his right toe to deny a breakaway chance by Marcus Sorensen and keep the margin at one.
Ford scored his AHL-high fifth power play goal of the playoffs at the 14:38 mark, blasting home a one-timer from the left circle off a Ben Street feed for his team-leading sixth goal, but the 2-2 deadlock lasted only 50 seconds. San Jose tallied its third goal of the night with the man-advantage when Joakim Ryan’s shot from the point slipped through the traffic in front of Coreau, pushing the Barracuda in front once again at 3-2.
The game remained tight and without further penalties until a boarding call on Eric Tangradi with 4:49 remaining in the third made Grand Rapids’ hill a little steeper, but Coreau and his penalty killers stood their ground to keep it a 3-2 game. The netminder headed to the bench for an extra skater with two minutes left, and Goodrow won a race to the puck and chipped it into the empty net at the 18:54 mark to seal the outcome.
Grosenick earned the win behind 33 saves while Coreau stopped 36 shots in suffering just his second loss of the postseason against eight wins.
Notes: The Griffins’ previous playoff record for shots by an opponent in a period was 19, set three times before…Grand Rapids finished 1-for-4 with the man-advantage, extending its team-record playoff streak of scoring a power play goal to eight games…In their history, the Griffins have won seven of 11 best-of-seven series that were tied at one game apiece.
Three Stars: 1. SJ Ryan (power play goal, assist); 2. SJ Carpenter (power play goal, assist); 3. SJ Bergman (power play goal)