SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The home teams in the Calder Cup Finals remain perfect, as the Syracuse Crunch ran their playoff record at the War Memorial Arena to 10-0 with a 5-3 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins in Wednesday’s Game 3, cutting the visitors’ series lead to 2-1.
Joel Vermin scored a pair of goals 57 seconds apart late in the first period to stake the Crunch to the first multi-goal lead of the series, and Syracuse played Grand Rapids even the rest of the way to defeat the Griffins at home in the finals for the first time ever. Grand Rapids claimed its Calder Cup in 2013 by winning all three games in Syracuse, including the Game 6 clincher.
The Crunch will host Game 4 on Friday and Game 5 on Saturday before the series potentially shifts back to Van Andel Arena, where the Griffins are 9-0 during the postseason. Game time each night is 7 p.m.
After failing on an early power play, the Crunch still managed to strike first at the seven-minute mark of the opening period when Byron Froese collected a carom off the end boards and stuffed the puck inside the left post.
The Griffins answered 2:17 later on Tyler Bertuzzi’s 22nd career playoff goal, which tied Teemu Pulkkinen for the franchise record. Martin Frk launched a blast from the high slot that hit the left post and fell to the ice, and Bertuzzi snuck behind Mike McKenna from the right side to slip the puck across the line.
Syracuse grabbed the first two-goal lead of the series thanks to Vermin. His wrister from the blue line hit traffic out front and deflected past Jared Coreau at 15:31, then he knocked home a rebound during a power play to put the Crunch ahead 3-1.
A two-goal swing in the Griffins’ favor occurred within a span of 10 seconds in the middle period, starting when Coreau denied Anthony Cirelli’s breakaway with a left pad save. Grand Rapids immediately pushed the puck up ice, and from the slot Colin Campbell slid a feed to Dominic Turgeon, who beat McKenna from the left side at 6:58 for the rookie’s first goal of the playoffs.
The Crunch restored their two-goal advantage via their second power play marker at 13:22, as Matt Taormina’s blast from the point was tipped into the right corner by the stick of Tye McGinn, before Cory Conacher increased the margin to 5-2 by crashing the net to bang a rebound across at 15:18.
A heads-up play by Brian Lashoff kept it a three-goal game with four minutes left. Coreau’s misplay of the puck in the right corner left Yanni Gourde staring at a vacated net in the left circle, but Lashoff slid across to deflect Gourde’s backhand out of harm’s way. It morphed into another two-goal swing less than a minute later when Kyle Criscuolo finished off a give-and-go with Bertuzzi by depositing a shot into the right corner at 16:38, cutting the visitors’ deficit to 5-3 entering the final stanza.
After combining for 19 goals over the previous seven periods, the teams ceded no goals during the third, despite the Griffins pulling Coreau in favor of an extra attacker with 2:10 remaining.
Coreau made 27 saves for the Griffins, who went 0 for 4 on the power play while allowing the Crunch to score twice on six opportunities. McKenna earned his first win of the series with 32 stops.
Notes: The Griffins’ streak of scoring a power play goal in 13 consecutive games was snapped after having obliterated their previous playoff record (six games) and matched the franchise’s overall standard…Grand Rapids’ record-tying five-game playoff winning streak also came to an end…All time, the Griffins have won nine of 10 best-of-seven series in which they held a 2-1 lead.
Three Stars: 1. SYR Vermin (two goals); 2. SYR McGinn (power play goal, assist); 3. SYR Conacher (goal, assist)