GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – With Grand Rapids staring down the barrel of suffering consecutive shutouts for the first time in more than three years, Filip Hronek scored power play goals at 18:39 and 19:35 of the third period to give the Griffins a miraculous 2-1 victory over the Manitoba Moose on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.
Moose netminder Eric Comrie turned back the first 28 shots he faced in another of his stellar efforts against Grand Rapids, but the Griffins’ dormant power play capitalized twice in the waning minutes to expand the home team’s lead atop the Central Division.
Now 27-15-3-4 overall and 17-4-1-3 at home, Grand Rapids leads second-place Iowa by four points as it heads into the second and third games of a season-high seven-game homestand. Next up is a rare visit by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, whom the Griffins will host at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Nearly two full periods transpired without a goal, highlighted by a pair of fruitless power plays per team and a first-period bout between new Detroit Red Wings signee Turner Elson and Marko Dano. But the Moose took a 1-0 lead into the second intermission thanks to a goal at 18:29 by Skyler McKenzie, who headmanned a 2-on-1 rush into the Griffins’ zone and snapped a shot past Harri Sateri’s glove from the top of the right circle.
The Griffins thought they had evened the score 6:22 into the third when Brian Lashoff beat a screened Comrie from the high slot, but the referees waved off the goal, ruling incidental contact with the goalie by either Wade Megan or Michael Rasmussen, each of whom had planted himself at the edge of the paint.
Sateri kept Grand Rapids in the game by lunging to his left to deny a backdoor try by Tucker Poolman with 4:21 remaining, before penalties to Peter Stoykewych and Poolman presented the Griffins with 1:09 of 5-on-3 power play time at the 18-minute mark. Grand Rapids turned that into a three-man advantage by keeping Sateri – who had been pulled 45 seconds earlier – on the bench, and Hronek tied it 39 seconds into the 6-on-3, blasting a feed from Filip Zadina into the top of the net from above the left circle.
With the Griffins still on a 5-on-4 power play for potentially the duration of regulation, Comrie made a spectacular stop on Zadina on the doorstep, but another Hronek effort soon foiled him. Grand Rapids had broken a scoreless streak of 119:26 on Hronek’s first goal, and he followed that one 56 seconds later by one-timing Chris Terry’s pass from the right boards into the back of the net from the point, sending the home crowd into delirium.
Following a timeout, the Moose (20-21-3-2) pulled Comrie in a last-gasp attempt to force overtime but could not generate a chance against Sateri, who finished with 20 saves. Comrie, who made 30 stops on the night, fell to 1-3-2 against the Griffins this season despite owning a 2.66 goals against average and a 0.920 save percentage in the series.
Notes: Rasmussen’s conditioning loan from Detroit came to an end with his Van Andel Arena debut, showing two goals and an even rating for his three-game stint…Grand Rapids went 2-for-4 on the power play and stifled all three Manitoba opportunities…The Griffins, who were blanked 2-0 in San Antonio last Friday, still have not been shut out in consecutive games since Jan. 23-27, 2016.
Three Stars: 1. GR Hronek (two power play goals); 2. GR Sateri (W, 20 saves); 3. MB Comrie (L, 30 saves)