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Prospect news: Griffins smoke Barons thanks to Pulkkinen hat trick

Only one Red Wings developmental affiliate and/or set of prospects played on Wednesday, and they played more than well enough to provide highlights for everyone. The Grand Rapids Griffins won their 9th straight game, defeating the Oklahoma City Barons 7-1, and Griffins forward Teemu Pulkkinen scored a hat trick in the process, regaining the AHL's scoring and points leads despite having played in 5-10 fewer games than any of his competitors in the scoring race.

The Griffins' website posited a recap of the game...

GRIFFINS CLOBBER BARONS, MOVE INTO TIE ATOP CONFERENCE

Oklahoma City Barons 1 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 7

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After sustaining an early blow in Wednesday’s battle between the top two teams in the Western Conference, the Grand Rapids Griffins stormed back to claim a 7-1 win over Oklahoma City and move into a tie with the Barons atop the standings at 74 points.

Thanks in part to Teemu Pulkkinen’s second hat trick in his last nine games with Grand Rapids, the Griffins posted their ninth straight victory, tying for the second-longest winning streak in franchise history and marking their longest run under coach Jeff Blashill. Grand Rapids also improved to 11-0-2-0 in its last 13 games and 15-1-2-0 in its last 18 outings, while pushing its home run to 6-0-2-0 with a fifth straight win at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins (34-17-5-1), who also increased their Midwest Division lead to four points over idle Rockford, will return to the road for their next four games, beginning with an 8 p.m. EST tilt in Milwaukee on Friday.

The Barons (34-16-3-3) got the early jump on reigning AHL Player of the Week Petr Mrazek, who rode consecutive shutouts into the game before ceding a goal just 1:53 in. Jujhar Khaira fanned on a point-blank attempt but the puck slid right to Martin Gernat, who put a shot inside the right post to snap Mrazek’s shutout streak at 146:21.

Pulkkinen, who maintained his AHL goal leadership while missing Grand Rapids’ last six games on recall to Detroit, pounded home No. 31 at the 12:15 mark. Taking a pass in the left circle, he snapped a shot through traffic and past Laurent Brossoit.

Red-hot rookie Mark Zengerle gave the Griffins a 2-1 advantage just 2:21 later, setting up outside the crease to redirect Nick Jensen’s point blast, giving him points in 10 of the last 11 games. Andy Miele earned his second assist of the period on the play, giving him 55 points on the season, good for third in the AHL.

Pulkkinen notched his second goal 8:11 into the middle period from the high slot, taking a centering pass from Kevin Porter and launching a shot that Brossoit was unable to corral before it eventually trickled over the line. With that goal, Pulkkinen passed Manchester’s Brian O’Neill and re-assumed the league’s scoring lead.

Andreas Athanasiou made it a 4-1 contest with 2:36 left before intermission, before an apparent third goal by Pulkkinen less than a minute later was waved off by the referee, who ruled that Miele had made incidental contact with the goaltender.   

No matter. After Tyler Bunz entered the game in relief of Brossoit to start the third, Pulkkinen cemented his hat trick just 1:20 into the stanza, rocketing a loose puck past Bunz from the top of the right circle for his 60th point in just 45 games as a Griffin.

Anthony Mantha scored on a deflection 21 seconds later – the goal was originally credited to Jeff Hoggan – to push the margin to five, before Tomas Nosek tallied the night’s final goal from the doorstep at 8:22.

Mrazek logged his sixth consecutive win since returning from his three-month tour of duty with the Red Wings and his eighth straight overall in a Grand Rapids sweater, finishing with 34 saves. Brossoit took the loss, stopping 23 of 27 shots, while Bunz turned aside seven of 10 as the understudy.

Notes: Greg Ireland led the Griffins to a record 11 consecutive wins from March 5-31, 2006, while the squads of Curt Fraser (Oct. 23-Nov. 13, 2009) and Bruce Cassidy (Dec. 22, 2000-Jan. 12, 2001) each posted nine-game runs…The Griffins’ last four wins have come by a margin of at least four goals each and by a cumulative score of 22-3.

Three Stars: 1. GR Pulkkinen (hat trick); 2. GR Mrazek (W, 34 saves); 3. GR Zengerle (goal, assist)

As well as a Flickr photo gallery and a set of highlights and interviews...

The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner posited a quote-free recap...

HIGHLIGHTS

Pulkkinen returned to the AHL and needed one game to regain the scoring lead. In 45 games, he now has 60 points (33-27-60), four points ahead of Brian O'Neill of Manchester (18-40-58) who has played in six more games.

Mark Zengerle continued his strong play. The first-year pro, playing on a line with Pulkkinen and Andy Miele, scored the go-ahead goal in the first and also picked up an assist. In the past 15 games, he has six goals and 14 points.

It was the third time the Griffins have scored at least seven goals this season. They had a season-high nine against Iowa on Dec. 27.

LOWLIGHTS

Landon Ferraro rammed into the Oklahoma City post on a short-handed shot attempt in the second period. He immediately skated off, holding his left shoulder and headed directly to the locker room and did not return. It came seconds after the Barons' Jujhar Khaira was helped off the ice after he injured his arm hitting the Griffins post.

With a 2-1 lead early in the second period, the Griffins had a four-minute power play following a high stick by C.J Stretch to Miele, but failed to mount much of a threat with just a couple mild opportunities.

And he spoke with the Griffins about their impending road trip and their confidence in themselves as they embark upon it:

"I think in the three years I've been here, I think we've had a real good road team," coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think that's mainly because we got exceptional leadership. We play the same way on the road, at home, it doesn't matter."

The Griffins are on one of the franchise's best streaks during one of the most difficult stretches on the schedule. Wednesday was their only home visit during an eight-game stretch from Feb. 24-March 12 and it hasn't mattered.

So far, so good. The nine-game winning streak also is part of a seven-game road win streak, tied for the franchise's longest ever.

The Griffins (34-17-5-1), who tied Oklahoma City for the Western Conference lead with 74 points, face Midwest Division foes Milwaukee on Friday and Rockford on Saturday.

...
The Griffins, who also play at Charlotte in midweek games next week, benefited from the latest return of Teemu Pulkkinen, who had a hat trick after missing six games while with the Red Wings. He's accustomed to the road.
"I was on the road with the Red Wings for like eight days and now we're going to go on another road trip for seven days," he said with a laugh. "It's fun to be with the boys when you are playing great hockey like this."
...
The Griffins won't be back home until March 14 when they face Rockford.

The Griffins appear to be having technical difficulties with their highlight clip, so here's WOOD TV8's clip of Pulkkinen's hat trick:

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.