Video Recap: Griffins Even Series With OT Win Over Comets

In front of a Conference Finals record crowd, the Griffins beat the Utica Comets in game 4 to tie the series. All three of the Griffins goals featured not only great goal scoring, but some top notch set ups.

Alexey Marchenko is day to day with an upper body injury, so Ryan Sproul made his first game appearance since game 3 of the Toronto series on April 29th and Tomas Nosek and Zach Nastasiuk both remain sidelined with concussions. The Ice must no have been that great, because players fell down an awful lot, including impeccable skaters like Andreas Athanasiou, Nick Jensen, and Dylan Larkin. The Comets hounded Teem Pulkkinen hard, I can remember 3 specific times there were two Comets who converged on him and just sandwiched him, and a couple more times where 3 Comets players all converged on him. He didn't have a bad game by any means, but the Comets did their best to reduce his effectiveness, unfortunately for them the Griffins have impressive depth and when Pulkkinen doesn't score, others do.

Lines were pretty consistent throughout the night, with just a few changes in OT.

Teemu Pulkkinen Dylan Larkin Jeff Hoggan
Tyler Bertuzzi Andy Miele Mark Zengerle
Kevin Porter Andreas Athanasiou Anthony Mantha
Marek Tvrdon Louis Marc Aubry Colin Campbell
Nathan Paetsch Xavier Ouellet
Brian Lashoff Nick Jensen
Brennan Evans Ryan Sproul

In addition to the goals, there were some pretty good (and bad) events. Here are some of them for your viewing pleasure.

Box Score


Athanasiou's tremendous speed, quick thinking, and skilled hands once again benefit the team, even when they don't result in goals. In this case, Athanasiou's speed forces Adam Clendening to take a hooking penalty. To fully appreciate how much credit AA deserves here, take a look at the beginning of the video and see where he is. He's the last forward back and is between the faceoff circles in his own zone and in just 3 seconds he's passed Kevin Porter, then speeds up to go for the puck, and blows between the two Comets defensemen. He makes it look so easy and effortless, yet how many players can only wish they had that ability.


Xavier Ouellet kept himself in great position on this power play, and after his initial shot was stopped, he kept looking for another opportunity. That opportunity came when Dylan Larkin made a phenomenal pass that required not only the mental recognition of how he could get the puck across to Ouellet, but also a lot of skill to get the pass through and right to Ouellet. What a great set up by Larkin.


Again on the power play, Larkin did a fantastic job of getting puck possession, keeping it, and getting his shots through to the net. The Griffins weren't able to score on this PP, but it was some great work by Larkin and his linemates nonetheless.


This penalty call on Nathan Paetsch received a hearty round of boos and "Ref you suck" chants from the crowd, especially when the replay was put up on the big screen. Paetch had his hands on his stick the entire time, which makes "holding" a bit difficult. Gaunce runs into him, holds on to him, then grabs Paetsch's head and shoves him down to the ice, yet somehow this was 2 minutes for holding to Paetsch.


This entire sequence is simply beautiful. Brian Lashoff makes a tape to tape cross ice pass to Andreas Athanasiou, and AA wastes no time and makes no mistake, as soon as the puck hits his stick he sends it up ice right to Anthony Mantha's stick and BOOM, it's a 4 on 4 goal. Mantha did a great job of going to the net, and I'm sure he had to at least suspect that AA would get him the puck. After the game when Athanasiou was asked about this goal, he said

I came in late and Lashoff made a great play off the wall with about three people on him, somehow it found the seam to me. I saw Mantha's big body going to the net, it's hard to miss him, and he's got that scoring touch around the net and it's almost guaranteed it's going in once you get it around the net for him... All year we've had great chemistry. He's an unbelievable player and he's easy to play off of.

Jeff Blashill added to the ManthAnasiou chemistry discussion by saying

AA and Mantha have been a real good pair for most of the season and when they've played their best hockey they've played together. AA's obviously real fast and Mantha can skate with him and they just seem to have good chemistry. AA and Mantha did a good job of skating, and when they're skating they have real high end ability and obviously made a couple really good plays.


Xavier Ouellet gives the puck to Athanasiou, who carries it into the Comets' zone, AA loses control of the puck but regains enough to get it to Kevin Porter. Porter gives it back to Athanasiou on the goal line and AA is in behind goalie Jacob Markstrom and just sends the puck across the goal line and out the other side. We were so close to having a 3-2 lead with 7:30 to go in the 3rd.


Now for the Pièce de Résistance

Comets forward Nicklas Jensen (not to be confused with Griffins defenseman Nick Jensen) drove to the Griffins net, and while he's being accused of "crosschecking" McCollum, we learned post game that Nicklas Jensen's stick actually got caught between McCollum's glove and arm, and while being stuck together, Jensen fell on McCollum. It looked bad live, but turns out it wasn't anything malicious. While the camera and most of us in the arena were focused on that little nugget, Nick Jensen got the puck and chipped it up ice to a waiting Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou knew he could beat the Comets defensemen (who were coming off the bench on a change, I believe) and Nick Jensen's chip put the puck in front of AA, and Athanasiou took off after it. There's no way anyone was catching Athanasiou, and he read Jacob Markstrom like a book and put the puck in between Markstrom's right pad and the post. In an almost identical move and result as his OT winner back on February 20th against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

When asked about his goal, Athanasiou said

I was in the D zone and I saw Jens (Nick Jensen) come around the net and he flipped it out. I heard a scrum going on so I was a little worried they would blow it down, but once I saw him chip it out I took some hard strides, saw that I had them beat, and made my move... Once I saw the chip out and their D were going for a change I knew I'd have a step on them. Once I took some hard strides and saw I had that lane, I knew I was going to have a chance to make my move. Watch his post game presser for all the glorious facial expressions and reaction.


Andreas Athanasiou has incredible speed, a creative hockey brain, and the hands that can both work at high speed and perform what his mind processes. Some players have one of maybe two of those qualities, but for a single player to posses all three is something pretty special. Coach Blashill summed it up well when he said

I don't know if I've ever seen a guy with that explosive of speed and ability to make a play at high speed. That's what separates him. I think most really, really fast guys aren't necessarily the best hands guys, but he's got that unique ability to make a play at high speed which most guys can't do.


Game 5 is Sunday at 5 pm at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids and one team will be going back to Utica with a 3-2 series lead.

Let's Go Griffins!!!