WINNIPEG, Manitoba – On the strength of three-point first periods byMatthew Fordand Ben Street, the Grand Rapids Griffins rebounded from their series-opening defeat to even the Central Division Semifinals with a resounding 5-1 victory over the Manitoba Moose in Game 2 on Sunday at Bell MTS Place.
After earning a road split, the defending Calder Cup champions will host as many as three straight games to conclude the best-of-five series, starting with Game 3 on Wednesday and Game 4 on Thursday at Van Andel Arena. Game time each night is 7 p.m.
Mirroring the Griffins’ fast start from Game 1, the Moose fired six of the first seven shots and tallied the contest’s first goal just 2:43 into the opening period. Cam Maclise circled behind the Grand Rapids net and was denied by Tom McCollum as he tried to stuff a backhand inside the right post, but Francis Beauvillier jammed the rebound beneath McCollum’s left pad.
Undaunted, the Griffins would soon score three goals in a span of 6:28 to seize a 3-1 advantage, with Ford factoring substantially in each one and the first two coming during power plays. Ford put Grand Rapids on the board at 6:40, taking Street’s feed from the right corner and snapping a shot off the right post and in from just above the hashmarks.
Eric Tangradi staked the Griffins to the lead at the 11:33 mark, going top shelf on Eric Comrie from below the left circle off Ford’s pass from the end boards. Less than two minutes later, Ford won a draw in the right circle then made a beeline to the slot to screen Comrie, who never saw Turner Elson’s wrist shot from the top of the right circle as it sailed into his net at 13:08.
Following a solid penalty kill by the Griffins that featured two blocked shots byBrian Lashoff, Street added the cherry to the period’s sundae by scoring on a breakaway at 18:56 to make it a 4-1 contest. Peter Stoykewych misplayed the puck at the Grand Rapids blue line and Street was off to the races, chipping a backhand over Comrie’s glove to give the visitors a three-goal cushion despite being outshot 11-10 during the frame.
Elson and Street both scored in Game 1 as well, giving each forward a pair of goals in the series.
Evgeny Svechnikov increased the margin to four with 6:36 remaining in the second period. His initial try from the right side off an Axel Holmstrom pass was stopped by Comrie, but Svechnikov found the puck loose behind the netminder and tapped it across the line.
Jamie Phillips replaced Comrie between the Moose pipes to start the third period and stopped all 15 shots he faced the rest of the way, but Manitoba’s chances for getting back in the game ended with 6:28 remaining, when Buddy Robinson blindsided Holmstrom along the right goal line and received a five-minute major for interference. In truth, though, any Moose hopes were doomed by the single shot they managed over the final 20 minutes, which set a Griffins playoff record for fewest shots allowed in a road period (previously three) and tied the mark for shots allowed in any period.
After being outshot 6-1 in the early going, Grand Rapids outgunned Manitoba 38-16 over the duration, as McCollum made 21 saves to notch the 13th playoff victory of his Griffins career, moving past Jimmy Howard into sole possession of third place on the team’s all-time list. Comrie, after turning aside 34 of 36 in his Game 1 win, stopped 19 of 24 in today’s loss.
Notes: The Griffins had lost seven straight playoff games to the Moose over three series, dating to Game 6 of the North Division Semifinals on April 29, 2007. It was their longest losing streak ever to a single playoff opponent…Grand Rapids owns a 1-1 record all time in best-of-five series that were tied through two games.
Three Stars: 1. GR Ford (power play goal, two assists); 2. GR Street (goal, two assists); 3. GR McCollum (W, 21 saves)