GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– Down 2-0 late in the second period, the Milwaukee Admirals rallied with four unanswered goals before holding on to take a 4-3 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.
It signified a rare regulation loss for Grand Rapids to its Central Division rivals, as the Griffins had earned at least a point in nine straight games (8-0-1-0) against Milwaukee, including last spring’s first-round playoff meeting.
The Griffins (19-18-1-4), who have lost two straight on the heels of a 9-1-0-1 tear, will have a quick shot at redemption on Friday when they travel to Milwaukee for an 8 p.m. EST rematch with the Admirals.
Matt Puempel showed off his hand-eye coordination and vision while setting up the Griffins’ first goal 5:48 into the opening period. Filip Hronek’s slap pass from the right point was deflected airborne on its way to Puempel on the left side, but he knocked the puck down with his stick blade, quickly corralled it at the bottom of the circle and sent a feed across the goalmouth to Ben Street, who tapped it into a yawning net.
Puempel lit his own lamp during a 5-on-3 power play at 9:31 of the second. From the right circle, Matt Lorito’s attempt at a backdoor pass to Matthew Ford was blocked by Petter Granberg, but the puck came directly to Puempel at the left hashmarks and he snapped a shot past Anders Lindback’s blocker to make it a 2-0 game.
Recently named U.S. Olympian Bobby Butler put the Admirals (21-14-4-0) on the board 3:02 before intermission, one-timing a blast into the bottom of Jared Coreau’s net from the left circle.
Butler did it again 3:30 into the third period off an Evgeny Svechnikovgiveaway at the Griffins’ blue line, speeding the length of the ice for a shorthanded goal that knotted the score at 2-2. That deadlock lasted all of 54 seconds, as Harry Zolnierczyk spun on a loose puck near the top of the right circle and rifled a shot past Coreau to give Milwaukee its first lead of the night.
Trevor Murphy extended the visitors’ advantage at 13:22, flinging a wrist shot on goal from the left point that snuck through Coreau’s five-hole and trickled across the line.
The Griffins pulled Coreau for an extra attacker for most of the final three minutes and were rewarded when Eric Tangradi tipped home Ford’s shot from the left side with six seconds remaining, but they had no time to net the equalizer.
Coreau, who suffered a regulation loss for just the second time in his last 10 outings, made 20 saves to Lindback’s 28.
Grand Rapids went 1-for-7 on the power play and held Milwaukee scoreless in its four tries.
Three Stars: 1. MIL Butler (two goals, assist); 2. MIL Zolnierczyk (goal); 3. GR Puempel (power play goal, assist)