DES MOINES, Iowa – The Grand Rapids Griffins’ offense stalled in the final period as they registered four shots and allowed two goals, which led to a 4-2 victory for the Iowa Wild on Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
Assigned by the Detroit Red Wings for conditioning, goaltender Jimmy Howard made his second appearance this season for the Griffins (12-15-1-2) and totaled 25 saves. Gerald Mayhew scored twice in the third frame, including an empty netter that helped propel the Wild (15-11-2-2) to the win.
The Griffins will finish their season-high six-game road trip on Saturday in a rematch against the Wild at 8 p.m. EST.
The teams traded shots on net for much of the opening period as the Griffins held an 8-7 shot advantage with 7:30 remaining. Grand Rapids broke through on a power play goal from Eric Tangradi who extended his point streak to two games (2-0—2) at the 15:21 mark.
Matt Puempel, who returned from injury after missing the past seven contests, skated behind the left goalpost and centered a puck to Tangradi in the middle of the zone. Tangradi’s one-timer slipped under the catching glove of Kaapo Kahkonen for his fourth goal of the season. Tangradi now has six points (4-2—6) in his first six outings since returning to Grand Rapids on Dec. 6.
The Wild responded with 3:06 left in the period when Colton Beck netted his second of the year. Beck skated through the Griffins’ zone and took an initial shot from just outside the crease that was saved by the right leg of Howard. However, the puck rebounded in front of the net and Kyle Rau smashed a close-range shot that was saved once more but the rebound was jammed past the right goalpost by Beck.
In the final seconds of the period, Givani Smith almost gifted the Griffins the lead after he skated through the center of the Wild’s zone and made a crafty between-the-legs move but his shot was knocked away by the right skate of Kahkonen.
Iowa made it a 2-1 game 3:06 into the second frame when Will Bitten tallied his fifth of the season. Howard went to retrieve a puck from behind his net after Connor Dewar rifled the puck down the right boards. Bitten snuck up behind Howard and stole the puck from the netminder and fired it into the open net.
The Griffins did not trail for long as they found the equalizer just 26 seconds later at 3:32. Dominik Shinehammered a puck toward the back goalpost from the left boards and Matthew Ford was able to deflect the puck down with his stick into the bottom right corner of the net for his fifth of the year.
The final frame started with the teams knotted at two apiece and Howard made a great glove save on a 2-on-1 break just over three minutes into the period. Mayhew got the better of Howard at 7:35 when he scored his team-high 15thgoal of the season. Rau skated behind the left goalpost and centered a puck to Mayhew between the circles. Mayhew’s wrist shot crept below the glove of Howard and into the right corner of the net.
The Griffins went on to kill off Jarid Lukosevicius’ five-minute major and have now warded off 24 straight penalties. Grand Rapids failed to create a meaningful chance on net in the third as they totaled four shots and did not register anything on net in the final six minutes of play.
Howard skated to the bench for an extra attacker with 1:30 remaining and Mayhew took full advantage as he added to his season total. Mayhew forced a turnover in the neutral zone and fired a shot from the left boards, which sailed into the net giving the Wild a 4-2 victory.
Notes: Grand Rapids’ power play went 1-for-4 and its penalty kill went 3-for-3…The Wild outshot the Griffins 29-28…Grand Rapids fell to 3-2 on its six-game road trip…Taro Hirose extended his point streak to two games (0-2—2)...Dennis Cholowski also extended his point streak to two games (0-2—2).
Three Stars: 1. IA Bitten (goal, two assists); 2. IA Rau (two assists); 3. IA Beck (goal)
[Post content courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins]