Recap: Griffins Tie Series With A 4-2 Win Over Comets

May 25, 2015

UTICA, N.Y. - Dylan Larkin's first two professional goals and a strong performance by Tom McCollum paced the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 4-2 victory over the Utica Comets on Monday in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, tying the series at one game apiece.

Grand Rapids held a 4-0 lead deep into the third period before Utica scored a pair of power play goals to spoil the shutout bid of McCollum, who had stopped 56 consecutive shots over a span of 102:21 since allowing the Comets' second goal midway through the first period of Sunday's 2-1 loss.

The Griffins will play a home game for the first time in 20 days this Thursday when they host Game 3 against the Comets at 7 p.m. Friday's Game 4 and next Sunday's Game 5 will also take place at Van Andel Arena.

The early part of the first period was a power play fest, with the Griffins failing on two chances and denying the Comets' lone advantage before the game was 11 minutes old. More costly than Grand Rapids' missed opportunities, however, was the loss of center Tomas Nosek, who left the contest for the duration less than three minutes in after sustaining a hard hit at center ice from Brandon DeFazio, who drew an interference penalty on the play.

But the Griffins still built a 2-0 lead thanks to Larkin, Detroit's first pick (15th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Playing in just his second game since signing with Grand Rapids on Thursday, the former Michigan Wolverine gave the Comets their first deficit in 135 minutes played by slamming Andreas Athanasiou's feed inside the right post from the slot at the 15-minute mark.

Just 3:33 later, Larkin launched a 40-foot shot on net that Jacob Markstrom mishandled, enabling the puck to bounce behind him and trickle across the goal line.

Teemu Pulkkinen and Tyler Bertuzzi pushed the margin to four with consecutive power play goals 3:10 apart late in the second period. Pulkkinen notched his AHL-leading 14th of the postseason at 14:12, whipping a shot home from the slot after Bertuzzi had dug the puck out from beneath a prone Comet. Bertuzzi then logged his seventh goal of the playoffs, solving Markstrom with a wrister from the right circle.

Joacim Eriksson replaced Markstrom between the Comets' pipes to start the third while, down on the other end, McCollum kept it a 4-0 game during another Griffins power play early in the frame, making a great save at the right post to deny a shorthanded try by Alex Biega.

The Comets finally broke through with a power play goal by Brendan Gaunce with 5:40 left in the game, as his one-timer snapped McCollum's shutout streak. Sven Baertschi made it interesting by scoring with an extra attacker for the night's fourth power play tally at 2:30, but Utica couldn't get closer.

McCollum finished with 32 saves to improve to 8-3 in the postseason. Markstrom made 12 stops before ceding to Eriksson, who turned aside both shots he faced in the third.

Notes: The Comets allowed more than two goals for just the third time in 14 playoff games...Jeff Blashill coached his 46th playoff game for the Griffins, twice those of No. 2 Greg Ireland in franchise history. Blashill's 28 playoff wins dwarf Ireland's 11, also the second-most all-time...The Griffins are 6-3 all time and 2-0 under Blashill when tied 1-1 in a best-of-seven series.

Three Stars: 1. GR Larkin (two goals); 2. GR McCollum (W, 32 saves); 3. UTI Gaunce (power play goal, assist)


Box Score

Watch Dylan Larkin score his first 2 pro goals here to put the Griffins up 2-0. Tomas Nosek missed most of the 1st period and part of the 2nd after receiving a late hit from Brandon DeFazio, which resulted in the Larkin - Athanasiou - Mantha line that produced Larkin's first goal. Mantha did a great job of carrying the puck into the zone, using his size and strength to avoid being taken down, and getting the puck to Athanasiou behind the net. Larkin was very smart to get to the front and be open in a great scoring spot. On Larkin's 2nd goal, Pulkkinen takes the first shot and a rebound comes out and Larkin comes skating in and takes a hard wrister at the net. It's a somewhat soft goal for Markstrom to give up, but we'll take it. Check out his post game interview here.

Watch Teemu Pulkkinen score on the Power Play here to put the Griffins up 3-0. This was his 6th playoff goal, 14th goal and 18th point in just 12 playoff games.

Watch Tyler Bertuzzi score on the Power Play here to put the Griffins up 4-0. This was his 7th goal and 10th point in 10 playoff games and he just turned pro!

Reading this tweet made me feel old, but also proud.

After a flat performance by the entire team in game 1, the Griffins bounced back nicely, remembered they're a team who loves to score goals, and rediscovered some of their chemistry. Dylan Larkin knocked my socks off after a slow game 1, Pulkkinen and Bertuzzi got back to what we've come to expect from them (goals!), Tom McCollum had a very solid bounce back game after a craptastic 1st period Sunday night. The Griffins will embark on a 12 hour sleeper bus ride back to Grand Rapids and begin preparing for game 3.

There is nothing this team cannot accomplish.

Games 3, 4, & 5 are in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Go watch them if you're able, because some of these guys won't be around the AHL much longer.