The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/04/13 at 11:31 PM ET
Updated, and beware, an auto-play highlight clip lurks within: Just found out about this, recap coming: the Grand Rapids Griffins surrendered 3 3rd-period goals and dropped a 4-3 decision to the Oklahoma City Barons in Game 6 of the AHL's Western Conference Final on Tuesday night.
As such, the teams will play for the right to face the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup Final in a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night. The game will take place at 7 PM EDT at Van Andel Arena in GR.
Update: Oh, boy. This one was a heartbreaker for the ages. Two goals and 1:33 of playing time in the 3rd period separated the Griffins from the Calder Cup Final...But things went wrong in a hurry with under 4 minutes left to play, as the Griffins website's recap notes:
The Oklahoma City Barons scored three times in the last 10:19 of the third period, including the tying and game-winning goals within the final 2:27, to shock the Grand Rapids Griffins with a 4-3 victory on Tuesday at Van Andel Arena, tying the Western Conference Finals at three games apiece.
As a result, the Griffins will play just the fourth Game 7 in franchise history and the third on home ice on Wednesday, to determine who will face the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup Finals. Game time is 7 p.m., and tickets are available at griffinshockey.com.
The Barons’ Mark Arcobello threaded a shot into the top corner of Petr Mrazek’s net from the left circle during a 5-on-3 power play 13:54 into the opening period, scoring Oklahoma City’s first goal since Game 3 and snapping its 0-for-19 drought with the man-advantage. That goal also broke Mrazek’s shutout streak at 175:32 and ended his run of 109 consecutive saves.
Grand Rapids answered during its own two-man advantage with 1:21 left in the period. Nathan Paetsch fired a shot wide right of the net that slammed off the end boards, and Tomas Jurco was waiting along the goal line to grab the puck and quickly bank it off Yann Danis’ back.
Mitch Callahan gave the Griffins the lead at 4:27 of the second, carrying the puck up the left side and into the Barons’ zone before snapping a wicked wrister past Danis from the top of the circle. Jeff Hoggan then made it 3-1 with 1:29 remaining in the period on a very similar play, flinging a shot on goal from the left boards that seemed to surprise Danis and found the far corner.
Midway through the third, the visitors cut their deficit in half off a turnover in the Griffins’ end, as Jonathan Cheechoo quickly fed Arcobello in the high slot for a shot that snuck past Mrazek at 9:41.
Jurco had an opportunity to restore the two-goal lead when he was awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down on a breakaway, but his try was denied by Danis’ left pad at the 11:22 mark.
The Barons were down to the final three minutes of their season when they scored the equalizer, with Toni Rajala rushing in from the right side to pot a carom off the end boards that sat near the post at 17:33. Then with just 1:05 remaining, Oklahoma City scored the game-winner when Randy Jones’ shot from the left half-wall was redirected over Mrazek’s left shoulder by Anton Lander, stunning the crowd of 4,926.
Fittingly, the Griffins lost after leading by two goals in the third for the first time since a 7-5 defeat at Oklahoma City on Feb. 9, when they led 3-1 after two and 4-2 at the 5:17 mark of the third. The Barons, meanwhile, became the fourth team in AHL history to win three road elimination games in a single postseason. No team has won four times under such circumstances.
Mrazek made 26 saves in defeat while Danis turned aside 33 shots.
Notes: The Griffins fell to 10-13 all time and 3-9 at home when their opponent faces elimination. When facing elimination themselves, the Griffins are 7-10 overall and 4-5 at Van Andel Arena…Grand Rapids is 1-2 in its history in Game 7s, including a 4-1 loss at Manitoba in the 2007 North Division Semifinals, a 5-4 win over Manitoba in the 2006 North Division Finals, and a 2-1 loss to Houston in the 2003 Western Conference Finals…Mrazek’s shutout streak was his second-longest of the postseason, as he authored a streak of 178:58 from Game 4 against Houston to Game 2 versus Toronto…In the three games since Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist returned from Detroit, Grand Rapids has gone 4-for-10 on the power play. Over the series’ first three games, the Griffins went 0-for-9…The Griffins outshot the Barons for the first time during the series, to a count of 36-30.
The Barons were delighted with the outcome, as they told EdmontonOilers.com's Ryan Dittrick...
"We talked about doing things the hard way and we definitely did that tonight," Head Coach Todd Nelson said post-game. "We stuck with it and our guys really dug deep. 'Get Greasy' is our (playoff) theme and this was a greasy win."
"We never quit," Arcobello added. "I'm proud of the guys. We came to Grand Rapids with the attitude that we were going to force Game 7. We're happy about tonight, but now we're going to focus on getting the one that really matters."
Now having recorded 12 goals and 19 points in 16 games, Arcobello continues to lead in the AHL in post-season scoring.
MVP goaltender Yann Danis made 33 saves in the win. Peppered with 16 shots and allowing a pair of "soft" goals in the second period, the veteran was exceptional when his team needed him the most. Danis stopped all nine shots he was tested with in the third period, including a penalty shot by Tomas Jurco shortly after Arcobello scored to make it a one-goal game.
Relieved in his post-game scrum, Danis spoke as if the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders.
"What can you say? It's been the case all year. We've battled through adversity and tonight was no different. Maybe that's what we needed to get things going. It was tough. Those were goals I should have had. The weirdest thing is that I was feeling good out there. Sometimes you give up those goals and you're not seeing the puck well, but I felt great. That's what was frustrating. But credit to the guys for bailing me out and scoring three for me in the third."
Anton Lander scored the game-winner with 1:05 remaining in regulation on a tip-in off a shot from Randy Jones to cap a wild third period. It was Lander's first game back with the Barons since being sidelined the past three weeks with a knee injury suffered in the second round against Texas.
“Jones took the shot and I just tried to get a stick on it,” Lander said. “This time I was lucky, and it's the small things that made a big difference. We had nothing to lose, and we had to score goals. It was a big win, but we need to play much better.”
The Griffins led 3-1 with less than 11 minutes left when the rally started.
Arcobello flicked a shot in past Grand Rapids goalie Peter Mrazek at 9:41, then Toni Rajala and Lander scored 82 seconds apart to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead.
“We talked about doing things the hard way, and we definitely did that tonight,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said. “The guys really dug deep, and I was happy with the way the guys played in the third period. They didn't quit, and we accomplished our goal. We wanted to force a Game 7 to see what would happen, and now we'll get ready for a big Game 7 tomorrow night.”
While Oklahoma City's scorers were finally able to capitalize on their chances against Mrazek, who shut out the Barons the past two games, it was goalie Yann Danis' game-changing save that provided the spark. Less than two minutes after Arcobello's goal, Danis stopped Grand Rapids' Tomas Jurco on a penalty shot to keep it a one-goal game.
“Absolutely huge,” Arcobello said. “I think that was the turning point in the third. It swung the momentum for us, and it could've easily been another two-goal deficit. Yann stepped up big when we needed him.”
The Griffins offered a stiff upper lip to the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner:
“We just have to forget about it and play hockey,” said Mrazek, who was coming off back-to-back shutouts. “What do you want to say? They score three goals in the last period and win the game. Now we have to get ready for tomorrow.”
Asked how the team played with the lead in the third, Mitch Callahan, who scored in the second period to put Grand Rapids ahead 2-1, said:
“We can’t take it for granted and I think we kind of did. We can’t make that judgment again … We tried to make too many cute plays instead of playing just a simple game … trying to be a little fancy in the neutral zone or in the offensive zone instead of grinding them and wearing them down.”
Coach Jeff Blashill thought momentum and desperation were a successful third-period combination for the Barons, looking to avoid missing the finals a second consecutive year.
“Unfortunately, we gave up the second goal, and they got some momentum on that ...” Blashill said. “We had chances earlier to make it 4-1 and we didn’t. Next thing you know they’re throwing pucks at the net and they found a way to get the other ones.”
The Griffins' YouTube channel posted a highlight clip and post-game interviews with Jeff Hoggan, Petr Mrazek and coach Jeff Blashill:
WOOD TV8 posted a highlight clip and interviews...
As did Fox 17:
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