CLEVELAND – The Grand Rapids Griffins saw their 2-1 third period lead vanish as the Cleveland Monsters scored a late goal before the Griffins responded with two goals in the final minute of play to win the contest 4-2 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Tuesday night.
The Monsters (8-6-0-1) tied the game with just 1:02 remaining after Zac Dalpe took a close-range shot that beat the glove of Calvin Pickard, who recorded a season-high 40 saves on the night. Just 20 seconds later, Joe Veleno scored the game-winner with a shot from the right circle and Matt Puempel tacked on an empty netter to seal the victory and extend his point streak to a career-high ten games.
The Griffins (7-6-1-1) return to Van Andel Arena on Friday as they host the Rockford IceHogs in the first leg of a home-and-home weekend series. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.
Grand Rapids came out of the gate strong scoring the game’s first goal at the 3:37 mark. Joe Hicketts was all alone at the center of the blue line and ripped a shot through traffic that was tipped into the net by Turner Elson.
The Monsters responded with 9:06 left in the first as Nathan Gerbe scored his fourth of the year. Jason Binkley skated into the Griffins’ zone and his pass from the high slot found Gerbe on the bottom of the right circle. His one-timer went over the left shoulder of Pickard and tied the game heading into the second period.
The Griffins were on the defensive side of the puck for much of the next frame, tallying only four shots through the first 17:30. Pickard continued to make save after save, recording 15 in the period. Despite being outshot 15-6 in the frame, Grand Rapids scored the only goal at the 18:01 mark.
Elson sailed a puck down the right boards and behind the net where Filip Zadina retrieved the pass and took an initial shot toward the goal. The shot was saved on the right goalpost before Zadina stabbed at it twice and jammed the puck past the left skate of Veini Vehvilainen for his third straight game lighting the lamp.
Pickard resumed his stellar play in the third, doing his part to shut down two straight Cleveland power plays within the first five minutes. Veleno and Evgeny Svechnikov had consecutive chances with 3:11 left, but Vehvilainen made two great point-blank saves to keep the Monsters alive.
After pulling their goaltender with 1:51 left, the Monsters reaped the benefits by tying the game at the 18:58 mark. Markus Hannikainen sent the puck in front of the net from the top of the zone and found Dalpe, whose shot from crease went underneath the glove of Pickard.
There was little time to celebrate for the Monsters as the Griffins scored the game-winner just 20 seconds later. Zadina smashed a puck down the right boards that took a fortuitous bounce back into the Monsters’ zone and straight on to Veleno’s stick. From the left circle, Veleno took a slap shot that zoomed over the blocker of Vehvilainen and the lead went back to the Griffins.
Puempel sealed the game with his empty-net goal with just nine seconds remaining to give Grand Rapids a 4-2 victory over the Monsters and extend its point streak at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to eight games (5-0-1-2).
Notes: Puempel’s 10-game point streak ties for the eighth-longest in Griffins history and is the longest since Svechnikov’s 12-game run from Jan. 20-Feb. 17, 2017…Dominik Shine skated in his 150th game as a Griffin in the AHL.
Three Stars: 1. GR Veleno (game-winning goal); 2. GR Pickard (W, 40 saves); 3. GR Elson (goal, assist)