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In the face of elimination, Griffins lean on veterans in shutout win over Moose

Jared Coreau earns shutout to push to winner-take-all game on Monday

Grand Rapids Griffins

GRAND RAPIDS — The Griffins had no more than an hour to hang their heads following a gut-wrenching loss in game three.

Coach Nelson bringing changes to the line-up in a do-or-die situation; Colin Campbell would draw back into the lineup after serving a one-game suspension, he’d replace Mike Borkowski. Dennis Cholowski had a decent showing in his playoff debut, but he wouldn’t get the nod for game four. Vili Saarijarvi would replace him. Perhaps the biggest change, and it is to no ones surprise — Jared Coreau got the start, after Tom McCollum had a poor start in game three.

Coach Nelson would start the game with his anchor line of Turner Elson, Colin Campbell, and Matt Ford. During the second line’s shift, Dominik Shine put a Moose player right on his rear-end, which got a hearty rouse from the crowd.

The Griffins were first to the penalty kill, and Colin Campbell’s ability was felt right from the get-go — he turned a two-on-one with Turner Elson, who launched the puck into Eric Comrie’s bread basket. The Griffins pulled off a strong kill, keeping the Moose to the perimeter, and not allowing them to get much on net. The Griffins saw their first power-play opportunity around 7:01 of the first period. The Moose did exactly to them what they did in game three — limit pucks on net. In fact, the Griffins were unable to register a shot the entire time Mike Sgarbossa was serving two minutes for holding.

Jared Coreau would take the next penalty.. He went to play the puck behind the net, and as Chase De Leo was chasing it around the boards, Coreau gave him a polite hip-check to knock him down. Filip Hronek would serve the two minutes. After a successful kill, the Griffins immediately shot themselves in the foot and got caught with too many men on the ice, again served by Hronek. That penalty, again, efficiently killed by the Griffins.

Evgeny Svechnikov and JC Lipon would get called for some extracurricular activity in the final two minutes. A clear sign that the refs were not going to allow what happened in game three to happen in game four. Personally, the Griffins look better at 4v4. They’re a quick-skating team who works well in the extra space. The Moose have had their number with winning battles in smaller areas.

At the end of 20 minutes, no scoring, and no fights. Miles different from Wednesday’s game. Moose hold the edge in shots, 8-3.

The second period started at four aside for 39 seconds. The Griffins got the first big chance of the period, but the remaining seconds were quiet. Just over five minutes into the period, the Moose managed to get a puck past Coreau, but it was immediately waved off. The call on the ice was that the puck was batted into the net with a glove.

Halfway through, it really seems like both teams are afraid to score the first goal. Manitoba is content with keeping the Griffins on the perimeter, and the Griffins seem content with sitting on the perimeter. Simply put — a snoozer on ice. I suppose the Griffins would gladly take that after Wednesday’s game.

At 18:25, the Griffins finally got what they had been waiting for. Robbie Russo made a great zone entry and found some open ice where Matt Ford was all alone. Ford lifted the puck past Comrie to make it 1-0. The Griffins rode the momentum from Ford’s goal and made the Moose pay again. Ben Street picked up a feed from Matt Puempel and hit the back of the net with an absolute howitzer. 2-0 at 19:40, and the crowd is going bananas. This is Street’s 7th point of the playoffs (4-3—7), which leads the Griffins.

After 18 minutes of very little energy, two quick back-to-back goals had the Griffins, and their fans going nuts. The score is all Griffins, and the shots are tied at 17 a piece.

A thought: I am a big fan of the hot dog cannon. Who doesn’t love getting hot dogs shot at them? The Griffins got this one right.

In the opening minutes of the third period, you could certainly tell that the Griffins had more confidence with the puck. They started to step up on the Moose and press them for the puck.

Vili Saarijarvi has shown flashes of skill that really makes me hopeful for him. He’s not afraid to shoot, and he has tremendous skating ability. I’d like to see him use his shiftiness are often to create bigger lanes to get the puck on net. I think that’s what has held him off the scoresheet for so long.

As expected, the final 10 minutes brought the anger out in both teams. Manitoba began to muck it up along the boards. The Griffins kept their composure, they played smart in the closing minutes, and it paid off. Brian Lashoff had the dagger to seal the win, he tossed a near 200-foot shot down into the empty net, and just like that, the Griffins are pushing game five.

Official box score

Up until now, I haven’t mentioned Jared Coreau as much as he deserves. He played a fantastic game to get the shutout, and got a well-deserved first star of the game. Coach Nelson said after the game that he’s going with him in game five on Monday.

This is just what these Griffins do — they come in clutch when elimination is staring them right in the face. Tonight was a great display of how their veteran core can carry the team when they need it most.

Here’s the reactions from the locker room, including Matt Ford, Jared Coreau, and Coach Todd Nelson.

Game five will be played Monday at Van Andel Arena. Puck drop is set fo 7pm.

Fun Fact: The Griffins have won their last three winner-take-all games.. All at home:

5/4/13 vs Houston (7-0)
6/5/13 vs Oklahoma City (5-4)
5/3/15 vs Toronto (3-1)