The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/02/13 at 04:57 AM ET
The Grand Rapids Griffins and Oklahoma City Barons spent Friday night hunkered down in a parking garage, waiting out tornadic weather in the Oklahoma City area, and on Saturday night, the Barons may have hoped that the Griffins had left Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Petr Mrazek under the rink. The Griffins tied their AHL Western Conference Final series at 2 games apiece via a convincing 4-0 win, Andersson scored the only goal that would count as the gamer, and Mrazek pitched a 40-save shutout.
The Grand Rapids Griffins' website relates the game's details via a superb recap:
Petr Mrazek set a Griffins playoff record for saves in a shutout with 40 and Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson made an immediate impact in their return from the Detroit Red Wings, as Grand Rapids earned a 4-0 win over the Oklahoma City Barons in Game 4 on Saturday at the Cox Convention Center.
After wrestling back home-ice advantage and tying the Western Conference Finals at two games apiece, the Griffins will play a third and final game in Oklahoma City on Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT, a contest that was rescheduled from Friday due to the severe storms that rocked central Oklahoma. Grand Rapids will then return to Van Andel Arena on Tuesday to host Game 6 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at griffinshockey.com.
Andersson and Nyquist paid dividends just 12:08 into the contest. With the Griffins controlling the action in the Barons’ end during a power play, Nyquist sent a pass from the top of the right circle down low to Andersson, who grabbed it to the right of the net, stepped out front and whipped a shot past Yann Danis.
For Andersson, who had not appeared in a Griffins uniform since Feb. 6, it marked his first point for Grand Rapids in exactly four months (0-2—2, Feb. 1 at HAM) and his first goal since a season-high four-point night on Jan. 19 at Rockford (1-3—4).
Andersson and Nyquist replaced Teemu Pulkkinen and Louis-Marc Aubry, and their return allowed the team to reunite its regular season's top line of Nyquist, Andersson and Tomas Tatar.
Riley Sheahan made it a 2-0 game less than two minutes into the second period. Tomas Jurco tracked down a loose puck along the end boards and quickly fed it out front to a streaking Francis Pare, whose try for the top right corner was denied by Danis. But Sheahan crashed the crease from the left slide to knock home the rebound at the 1:57 mark.
The lead increased to three at 8:25. Chad Billins made a pass out of his zone to Tomas Tatar, who headmanned the puck up the left side. He pulled up just inside the Oklahoma City line and dropped the puck over to Billins, who maneuvered down the slot before sending a pass across to a wide-open Landon Ferraro for an easy redirection from the doorstep.
The Barons momentarily thought they had solved Mrazek during a power play with just under five minutes remaining in the second, but the referees initially ruled and subsequently confirmed via replay that the puck was kicked over the goal line by C.J. Stretch.
Mrazek continued to pile up saves in the third period as Grand Rapids was outshot 15-5, and after the Barons had pulled Danis and incurred a penalty, Jan Mursak scored an empty-net, power play goal with 1:49 left for the final margin.
Not only was it Mrazek’s third shutout of this postseason, but his 40 saves were also the third-most ever for a Griffins goalie in a shutout, including the regular season. Jimmy Howard made 43 on Jan. 24, 2009 vs. Quad City (1-0 SOW), while Neil Little made 41 on Dec. 26, 1998 at Michigan (4-0).
Grand Rapids’ special teams had a big hand in the victory, with the power play converting both attempts and the penalty kill denying all four Barons chances.
Danis finished with 28 saves.
Notes: The Griffins played just their fourth game in the month of June in franchise history. During the 2000 IHL Turner Cup Finals against Chicago, they played home games on the 1st and 5th and a road game on the 3rd…The winner of this series will take on Syracuse in the Calder Cup Finals. The Crunch claimed the Eastern Conference championship with a 7-0 victory in Game 5 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight…Over their first 34 playoff periods, including the first frame of their Game 1 victory over Oklahoma City, the Griffins were outshot only five times. The Barons subsequently outgunned Grand Rapids for nine straight periods until the Griffins finished tonight’s second period with a 14-11 edge.
"We knew this was a big game," said defenceman Brandon Davidson who, once again, had a strong night on the back end. "It was very important to us to get off to a good start because they had the new additions (Nyquist and Andersson) to the lineup. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. It's definitely not the effort we wanted. But we've got to forget about it and move on to tomorrow night where we need better results."
"I have a feeling the series is going to go the distance," added Head Coach Todd Nelson. "We have two strong teams going at it and we play very similar. It's going to be a battle, that's for sure. I thought as the game went on we got stronger, so if we can carry that over to the game tomorrow, we'll be fine. We have to make sure we get off to a good start tomorrow"
The Barons led 14-13 in shots after one period of play, but were trailing 1-0 where it counted. Penalties to Francis Pare (high-sticking), Luke Glendening (hooking) and Tomas Tatar (interference), gave OKC three separate power-play chances, but Mrazek stood tall in thwarting them all.
"We quantity, but I didn't think we had a lot of quality in our shots," said Barons captain Josh Green, who recorded one shot on goal in the loss. "We had 40 shots, but I thought it an easy night for (Mrazek). We had plenty from the outside and he saw pretty much everything. We didn't have a lot of second-chance opportunities, either. If we're going to move on in this series, we've got to do better at battling for position in front and getting those second opportunities.
The Barons have now only converted on one of 15 power-play chances is series. Coming in, it was operating at an 18.6 percent clip in the post-season.
"We're getting frustrated at times and I think we're deviating a little from what (Nelson) wants us to do," said Green. "We've got to stick to the system. Right now we're not doing well at bringing pucks into the zone, so we need to come in more organized and know what we're doing."
“They played with some desperation,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “They're a good hockey team ... Grand Rapids got the jump early and their goaltender played unbelievable.”
The Griffins got a boost from two players Detroit assigned to the team Thursday after the Red Wings were eliminated in the NHL Playoffs.
Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist helped the Griffins go 2-for-2 on the power play after they were 0-of-9 in the first three games with the man advantage.
“They're definitely different with those two guys,” Nelson said. “They're more dynamic with those two guys. But it's not like that line killed us. Their scoring was spread out. It came down to it was a total team effort on their part and a total team loss on our part.”
(It'll be interesting to see what the Griffins can bring to the table if Danny DeKeyser returns on Tuesday!)
And the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner spoke to Tomas Tatar about his team's win:
Tomas Tatar, who leads the Griffins in postseason scoring with 13 points (9-4-13), was pleased to have some of the pressure off with the arrival of his former linemates.
“Before, I was feeling kind of like a target out there,” Tatar said. “But now, if they want to play against me, then Andy and Gus can score pretty much every time. So if they want to take away me … now they have to focus on a whole line.”
Besides the goals from Sheahan (his second) and Ferraro (fourth), the Griffins also killed off three penalties in the second period.
Mrazek, meanwhile, earned his third shutout of the postseason on a season-high 40 saves, a franchise record for a playoff shutout. The 20-year-old rookie also blanked Houston and Toronto in consecutive games (May 4, 10), both by 7-0 scores.
The winner of the Western Conference final will take on Syracuse in the Calder Cup final. Syracuse eliminated Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in five games with a 7-0 victory Saturday … The Griffins scored two power-play goals, a notable accomplishment since Oklahoma City had killed 29 of 31 previous attempts … With the arrival of Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson from Detroit, Teeme Pulkkinen and Louis-Marc Aubry were inactive.
The Edmonton Oilers' website posted a VERY LONG highlight clip given that there wasn't much to cheer about from their perspective (most teams will post a goal against and go, "Well, that was the game"):
Mitchell Callahan and Antti Tyrvainen got into a fight in the second period, and Tyrvainen got a double minor for a "spearing attempt" late in the third period:
If you wish to watch the Barons' post-game interview summary or individual interviews with Brandon Davidson, Josh Green or coach Todd Nelson, you may most certainly do so on your own, but the Oilers' website did post a photo gallery from the game, as did the Griffins' Flickr account (and Landon Ferraro appears to be from the Niklas Kronwall school of wearing one's visor as a sun-shading cap)...
The Griffins' website posted a highlight clip of Andersson's goal as well as post-game interviews with Andersson, Tatar and coach Jeff Blashill...
And WOOD TV8 posted a slate of highlights and post-game interviews as well:
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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.