The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/18/13 at 01:04 AM ET
The Grand Rapids Griffins have been playing lights-out spectacular hockey while I was away, and on Friday night, the Griffins took a 3-1 lead over the Toronto Marlies in their second round AHL series, defeating Toronto 4-1. The Grand Rapids Griffins' website provides a recap of the game...
The Grand Rapids Griffins pushed the Toronto Marlies to the brink on Friday night with a 4-1 victory at Van Andel Arena, taking a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Landon Ferraro banked the game-winning goal off a Marlies defenseman and past former Griffin Drew MacIntyre with less than 10 minutes remaining, a rare reward for the home team on a night in which Grand Rapids outshot Toronto by a 2-to-1 margin (36-18).
The Griffins will have a chance to close out the Marlies and advance to their first conference finals in seven years on Saturday when they host Game 5 at 7 p.m.
If the Griffins win tonight, they'll advance to play the Oklahoma City Barons, the Edmonton Oilers' AHL affiliate...
The Griffins owned the first period, outshooting Toronto 13-4, but found themselves down 1-0 at the intermission thanks to missed opportunities and one defensive lapse. Players from both teams rang shots off the iron – Mike Zigomanis of the Marlies and later Francis Pare – and the Griffins failed to capitalize on three power play chances, including 50 seconds of a 5-on-3. Instead, with 1:55 left in the period, Carter Ashton flung a shot on net from the left corner that somehow found room between Petr Mrazek’s pads, giving Toronto the lead.
Grand Rapids finally cashed in on its fourth man-advantage at the 5:15 mark of the second to knot the score. Carrying the puck down the left side on a 2-on-1 rush, Luke Glendening sent a feed across the slot that was disrupted by Marlies defenseman Mike Mottau, but Tomas Jurco quickly found the wayward puck and whipped it past MacIntyre.
The Griffins continued to dominate the play and the shots, finishing the frame with a 27-12 cushion, but MacIntyre was brilliant for the visitors, stopping several point-blank tries during a Griffins power play in the last few seconds of the period to keep it a 1-1 game.
It took just past the midpoint of the third and their 32nd shot for the Griffins to go on top. With MacIntyre scrambling back into position after misplaying the puck behind the net, Ferraro tracked down the puck along the end boards. He tried sending a pass out front to Jurco, and the puck hit Marlies defenseman Dylan Yeo and caromed over the line at 10:13.
Toronto had a great chance to tie it with under eight minutes remaining when the puck sat loose behind Mrazek during a scrum, but Brennan Evans swept it out of harm’s way before any Toronto skater could get to it.
The Marlies called timeout and pulled MacIntyre with 1:32 remaining in a last-ditch effort for the equalizer, and Jeff Hoggan (19:07) and Jan Mursak (19:24) both scored into the empty net in the final minute to salt away the Griffins’ victory.
MacIntyre truly deserved a better fate after stopping 32 of 34 shots on the night, but Mrazek earned the win by making 17 saves, allowing no more than a single goal for the third time in the last five games.
Notes: The Griffins own a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series for the fourth time in their history, and they’ve gone on to win the series on each prior occasion, clinching twice in Game 5 and once in Game 6. In their only other such series as members of the AHL, they defeated the Marlies in five games in the 2006 North Division Semifinals.
The Griffins' website also posted a Flickr photo gallery and a slate of highlights and post-game interviews...
The Toronto Marlies' website provides the other side's take on the game...
If you really, really want to watch Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, forward Greg Scott or forward Mike Zigomanis speaking to Leafs TV, you may enjoy doing so, but WOOD TV 8's highlights might be more to your liking...
Or Fox 17's highlights (Arnold Schwarzanegger commercial as bonus material)...
The Canadian Press dispatched a correspondent to follow the Marlies' exploits...
It's a best-of-seven series," Toronto right winger Greg Scott. "We know that and they know that. Our backs are against the wall, so we have to come out flying (Saturday), and I think we're going to do that."
Grand Rapids snapped a 1-1 tie with 9:47 left when a shot by Landon Ferraro from behind the net deflected off Marlies defenceman Dylan Yeo and into the goal.
"That's hockey sometimes, and those goals happen," Scott said. "From our end, I think we have to do the same. We have to create our own luck."
The Marlies opened the scoring in the first period when Carter Ashton flung a shot toward the net from the left side and it trickled past the stick of Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek.
It was Ashton's second goal in as many games.
"It's always best to play with the lead, and I was relieved to see us get that goal," Toronto coach Dallas Eakins said. "But unfortunately, we had a breakdown on our penalty kill and it evened the score."
And the Grand Rapids Press's Dean Holzwarth spoke to the Griffins' players and coach after the game:
With the game tied at 1-1, Ferraro launched a shot from behind the net that deflected off Marlies defenseman Dylan Yeo and into the goal.
“We got a bit of a lucky break, but if you keep doing things right for long periods of time, things are going to go your way at some point,” Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill said. “Sometimes you earn your breaks, and I thought we earned our break tonight.”
After Ferraro's goal, the Griffins prevented the Marlies from getting the equalizer and added a pair of empty-net goals in the final minute from Jeff Hoggan and Jan Mursak.
“It was one of those plays where it is nice if it works out and it did,” Ferraro said. “Instead of me throwing down the ice, I put it out front. It was a lucky bounce, but at the same time, it was a puck on net. And then we locked it down from there.”
Grand Rapids dominated the first period, and held a 13-4 shots on goal advantage, but the Marlies struck first. Carter Ashton flung a shot toward the net from the left side and it trickled past the stick of Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek to give the Marlies a 1-0 lead.
“I thought we came out and played with a lot of energy, and we had very good puck pressure,” Blashill said. “Drew (MacIntyre) played very good and made some key saves, but we were able to play the same way. The guys don't get frustrated, and don't get on an emotional roller coaster. They understand that it's a 60-minute game and you have to keep plugging away and doing the right things.”
The Grand Rapids Press posted an 8-image photo gallery, too.
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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.