ROSEMONT, Ill. — Back-and-forth scoring between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Chicago Wolves ended early in the third period of Saturday night’s game when Chicago’s Keegan Kolesar pocketed his 10th goal of the season off a rebound.
Despite game-tying efforts from Matt Puempel and Wade Megan earlier in the night, Kolesar’s third-period goal would remain unanswered for the final 15:25 of regulation and allow the Wolves a 3-2 win over Grand Rapids at Allstate Arena.
The Central Division-leading Griffins (31-17-4-4) now sit four points ahead of the third-ranked Wolves with 70 points. The two-point victory for Chicago (30-17-5-1) included Brooks Macek’s fifth goal in seven games against Grand Rapids, while Daniel Carr tallied his 10th point in the last five of the series.
Coming off a 21-day break from road games, the Griffins’ next matchup will feature another road trip to Illinois, when Grand Rapids travels to Rockford to face the IceHogs at 8 p.m. EST on March 1.
Carr, the league’s leading point-scorer, extended his point total to 65 when he set up the Wolves’ first goal halfway through an early power play. From the center of the right-wing circle, Carr tapped a pass to winger Curtis McKenzie at the goal line. McKenzie’s attempted pass to Macek across the the doorstep never reached its intended target, instead bouncing off the skate of Joe Hicketts and into the net of Patrik Rybar at 4:47.
A delay of game penalty on the Wolves set the Griffins up to close the one-goal gap at 10:44, but the equalizer wouldn’t come until four seconds after the chance expired. As a pass from Carter Camper set him up inside of the left-wing circle, Puempel fired off a shot that flew past Chicago goaltender Max Lagace and tied the game at 1-1.
Macek and Carr teamed up early in the second period to rebuild Chicago’s lead at 4:36 after capitalizing on a turnover. A 2-on-1 between the duo and Dennis Cholowski left Carr skating up along the left-wing boards all the way to the doorstep. There, he dished the puck to Macek on Rybar’s right side, who tapped it past Rybar to regain the lead.
Megan, who tallied a secondary assist on Puempel’s goal in the first period, notched his second point of the night when he redirected Joe Hicketts’ backhand shot into Lagace’s net at 14:25. After Dylan McIlrath’s shot from the blue line rang off Lagace’s right post, Hicketts ripped off a shot from the left-wing boards and Megan redirected it past the goaltender to log his fifth goal in five games.
Scoring was cut off early in the third period when Kolesar netted his rebound to give Chicago its third and final lead of the game. After his first shot from the top of the right-wing circle was blocked, Kolesar picked up the rebound near the bottom of the circle and lobbed it past Rybar for the game-winning goal.
Lagace turned away 24 shots for the win, while Rybar finished the night with 20 saves.
Notes: The penalty kill unit finished 3-for-4, while the power play ended the night 0-for-2...Camper leads the Griffins’ assist effort in the series against Chicago with five...Puempel’s goal, his fifth against Chicago, lands him sole possession as Grand Rapids’ leading scorer in the series after previously being tied with Turner Elson at four.
Three Stars: 1. CHI Kolesar (game-winning goal); 2. CHI McKenzie (goal, assist); 3. CHI Carr (two assists)