GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – For the second straight day, a lackluster first period had the Grand Rapids Griffins searching for answers against the Texas Stars. But unlike Saturday, Sunday’s inauspicious start did not come with a three-goal deficit, and the home team rode four second-period goals to a 5-1 victory.
Evgeny Svechnikov (1-2—3), Chris Terry (1-1—2), Michael Rasmussen (1-1—2) and Matt Puempel (1-1—2) each tallied multiple points while Pat Nagle held down the fort early and finished with a season-high 34 saves, as the Griffins leapfrogged the Stars to seize a share of third place in the Central Division for the first time since Nov. 21.
Having gone 8-2-1-2 in their last 13 games to rocket up from eighth place over the last four and a half weeks, the Griffins are tied with the Chicago Wolves at 51 points with the Stars now a point back at 50. The top four teams in the division will qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs, and Grand Rapids is looking to advance to the postseason for the eighth consecutive season.
The Griffins (22-21-3-4) will begin the final third of their regular season schedule on Tuesday when they pay a 7 p.m. visit to the Cleveland Monsters.
With 1:37 left in a scoreless first period that was dominated by the Stars (23-22-2-2), Nagle lost his stick during a scramble around the Griffins’ net but stuck out his glove to rob a point-blank try by Josh Melnick. That was one of 17 saves Nagle made during the frame, while his teammates managed only a pair of shots against Landon Bow.
Awarded a power play early in the middle period, the Stars needed only 24 more seconds to finally take the lead. On an entry into the Griffins’ zone, Jason Robertson knocked down a puck at the left point, walked into the hashmarks and put a shot past Nagel at 1:15, giving him five goals in six games against Grand Rapids this season.
That goal woke the Griffins from their Sunday slumber, as Terry answered 61 seconds later to knot the score despite Grand Rapids’ 18-3 shot deficit to that point. From the left circle, Svechnikov centered a pass to Terry, who blasted a one-timer past Bow from the high slot for his team-leading 18th goal of the campaign.
Seven minutes later, the Griffins grabbed their first lead of this weekend set on just their ninth shot of the afternoon. Terry made a great move past a defender in the left circle and bore down on Bow before slipping a feed across the top of the crease to Rasmussen for a go-ahead backhander at the 9:13 mark.
The offensive onslaught continued for Grand Rapids, which scored on shots No. 13 and 16 to build a three-goal lead and make it four goals scored in a span of 14 shots and 12:18 of elapsed time. Svechnikov tallied his third goal in two games during a power play at 12:39, crashing the net to receive Rasmussen’s pass and take a shot that pinballed off Bow’s left pad and the skate of Stars defenseman Joel Hanley on its way into the net.
Puempel then ended Bow’s workday at 14:34, popping home a rebound of a Joe Hicketts shot from the slot to usher Jake Oettinger into the Stars’ crease. The period ended with the Griffins holding that 4-1 advantage despite being outshot 26-17 through 40 minutes.
Brian Lashoff tallied Grand Rapids’ fifth straight goal to finish off the scoring with 3:27 remaining in the game, as his blast from the left point ricocheted off the far post, caromed off Bow’s backside and rolled across the line.
The Griffins were 1-for-2 on the power play and the Stars went 1-for-3. Bow stopped 12 of 16 shots in the loss while Oettinger turned aside seven of eight in relief.
Three Stars: 1. GR Nagle (W, 34 saves); 2. GR Terry (goal, assist); 3. Svechnikov (power play goal, two assists)
[Post content courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins]