The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/14/14 at 10:09 PM ET
Updated 3x at 11:43 AM: The Grand Rapids Griffins are probably playing the most offensively-talented team in left in the AHL playoffs, and they had to deal with what was deemed a "precautionary" pulling of Game 3 hat-trick-scorer Tomas Jurco from the game due to an "upper-body injury," as well as losing Jordin Tootoo to some sort of wrist injury (and Tootoo was in because Landon Ferraro was out), but the Griffins built upon last night's win and rode a 3-goal second period--and 33 saves from Petr Mrazek--to a 3-2 win over the Texas Stars on Wednesday night, tying the teams' best-of-7 series at 2 games apiece.
As AHL series have 2-3-and-2 formats, Game 5 will take place in Grand Rapids this Friday, and all eyes are on the Griffins' injury situation, as Fox 17's Steve Amorose noted (and Adam Almquist remains out with some sort of unspecified issue):
A three-goal outburst in the second period proved to be enough offense and Petr Mrazek made it stand up with 33 saves as the Grand Rapids Griffins edged the Texas Stars, 3-2, in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday night.
After losing the first two games on the road, the Griffins have battled back to tie the best-of-seven series, 2-2, with Game 5 set for Friday night.
The first period of Game 4 was scoreless, but Texas struck just 13 seconds into the second when Dustin Jeffrey split a pair of defenders and beat Mrazek on a breakaway from the blue line in.
Grand Rapids drew even on a power play at 3:48 as Jeff Hoggan redirected a pass from Cory Emmerton past Cristopher Nilstorp (22 saves) for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
David McIntyre put the Griffins ahead for good with 9:24 left in the second period when he batted the rebound of a Jordin Tootoo shot out of mid-air and in for a 2-1 lead.
Andrej Nestrasil made it 3-1 at 13:58 of the second, knocking in his own rebound after Mitch Callahan worked the puck in front from behind the Stars cage.
Former Griffins defenseman Derek Meech scored on a wraparound with 43.2 seconds left in the second period to cut the Grand Rapids lead to 3-2, but Mrazek stopped all 10 Stars shots in the third to preserve the win.
Update #2: Based upon the Stars website's recap, I'm guessing that they weren't happy:
Texas Drops Controversial Game 4 to Grand Rapids 3-2
Morin Extends Point Streak to Six; Series Tied 2-2
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Reigning American Hockey League MVP Travis Morin extended his playoff assist and point streaks to six games, but the Texas Stars lost to the Grand Rapids Griffins 3-2 in controversial fashion in Game 4 on Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena. The best-of-seven Western Conference Semi-Finals are now tied 2-2.
The teams traded chances, and momentum, in the first period, but neither squad could find the net. A Griffins’ penalty in the final seconds of the opening frame set the table for the game’s first goal. A mere 13 seconds into the second period, Dustin Jeffrey slipped right through the middle of the Grand Rapids defense and beat goaltender Petr Mrazek one-on-one, faking a shot and the skating around the frozen goalie for an easy tap-in and a power play goal. Travis Morin extended his assist and point streaks to six games and Maxime Fortunus also assisted on the goal that gave Texas a 1-0 lead. The Griffins responded at 3:48 with a power play goal of their own as a slick passing sequence led to a tap-in for Jeff Hoggan to tie the game.
Halfway through the period David McIntyre batted in a rebound out of mid-air and immediately had his goal waived off by the referee standing behind the net. However, after a conference with all four on-ice officials, the decision would be overturned and a controversial goal awarded for a 2-1 Grand Rapids lead. The home team extended their lead to 3-1 three and a half minutes later as Andrej Nestrasil swooped into the crease and jammed his second effort under the right pad of Cristopher Nilstorp. The Stars bounced back in the final minute of the period as former Griffin, Derek Meech scored on a wrap-around at 19:16, assisted by Mike Hedden, to bring the score to 3-2.
Texas upped the pressure in the third period, out-shooting Grand Rapids 10-6 in the final frame. During an early power play, Nilstorp came up with his best save of the game, sliding from left to right and, at full stretch, flashing his catching glove to thwart Mitch Callahan on a two-on-one shorthanded rush. Morin nearly tied the game shortly thereafter as he raced in on a two-on-one and beat Mrazek with a high wrist shot, but the puck rang harmlessly off the crossbar. The Stars pulled Nilstorp in the game’s final minutes for an extra attacker, but they could not find the equalizer.
Petr Mrazek (5-3) finished the game with 33 saves on 35 shots to record his fifth win of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs in goal for Grand Rapids. Cristopher Nilstorp (3-1) suffered his first defeat of the postseason, stopping 22-of-25 shots in net for Texas. The Stars out-shot the Griffins 35-25 and went 1-for-3 on the power play; Grand Rapids was also 1-for-3 with the man-advantage.
Notes: Travis Morin extended his franchise playoff-record assist streak to six games and tied Brendan Ranford’s team record with a six-game point streak. Ranford had his record-setting five-game goal streak and six-game point streak snapped in Game 4; it was the first game of his young professional playoff career without a point. With the lone assist on Derek Meech’s second period goal, Mike Hedden extended his current point streak to five games.
The Grand Rapids Griffins' website counters...
The Grand Rapids Griffins completed their climb out of what had been a 0-2 series hole with a second straight home win over the regular season champions on Wednesday, rallying for a 3-2 victory over the Texas Stars to knot their best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Jeff Hoggan, David McIntyre and Andrej Nestrasil scored consecutively in the second period to give the Griffins all the scoring they’d need, while Petr Mrazek earned his 20th playoff win in less than 13 months by making 33 saves.
Grand Rapids will host Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m., before the series shifts back to the Cedar Park Center for Game 6 on Sunday and Game 7, if necessary, on Monday.
Following a scoreless first period, the teams traded power play tallies early in what became a five-goal second period. Off the opening faceoff, Dustin Jeffrey split defenders at the Griffins’ blue line, rushed in alone and beat Mrazek just 13 seconds into the frame.
Hoggan, the Griffins’ captain, netted the equalizer at the 3:48 mark, darting across the top of Cristopher Nilstorp’s crease to redirect Cory Emmerton’s centering feed inside the left post.
The Griffins benefitted from the reversal of a referee’s call to go on top 2-1 with 9:24 left in the period. A shot by Jordin Tootoo bounced off Nilstorp and went airborne in the slot, where McIntyre was waiting to bat the puck home. The goal was immediately waved off on the presumption that McIntyre’s stick was above the crossbar, but the officials huddled for a minute before pointing to center ice, confirming the goal.
Nestrasil increased Grand Rapids’ lead to two just 3:22 later. Mitch Callahan bested two Stars in a battle for the puck along the end boards and quickly pushed it out to Nestrasil, who jammed home a shot from point-blank range.
Former Griffin Derek Meech gave Texas momentum heading into the third by scoring 44 seconds before intermission, cutting the visitors’ deficit to one. From the right point, he carried the puck down low and circled around the net before unleashing a backhand shot that eluded Mrazek and trickled across the line.
The Griffins nearly restored their two-goal lead during a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush less than two minutes into the third, but Nilstorp dove to his right to rob Callahan and keep it a one-goal game.
The Stars pressed hard for the tying goal throughout the third, but the Griffins’ defense limited them to a modest 10 shots and Mrazek did the rest, improving his postseason record to 20-12.
Nilstorp, who finished with 22 saves, suffered his first defeat of the playoffs against three wins.
Notes: The Stars outscored the Griffins 9-2 while winning Games 1 and 2 in Texas, while Grand Rapids has since enjoyed an 8-4 margin in its two home-ice victories…In two seasons under Jeff Blashill, the Griffins are now 11-2 when they’re within two losses of playoff elimination…All time, Grand Rapids has won three of four best-of-seven series that were tied 2-2, most recently prevailing in the 2013 Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City.
Three Stars: 1. GR Mrazek (W, 33 saves); 2. GR Nestrasil (game-winning goal); 3. GR McIntyre (goal)
The Griffins' website also posted a photo gallery and a combined clip of highlights and post-game interviews:
MLive's Peter J. Wallner penned a recap (embedded photo gallery included)...
The Griffins will welcome the extra day before Game 5 to give Jurco a chance to heal. He started and played the first period, but didn't come out for the second.
"I have no idea on the status. I'll let you know when I know," coach Jeff Blashill said, noting the team has an optional practice Thursday and it's uncertain if Jurco will participate.
But he was impressed with how the team adjusted.
"When you lose a guy who is a really good player, you can either melt or be real resilient," Blashill said. "That's not to say they didn't have a lot of real good chances, but Petr Mrazek was great."
Hoggan was impressed with how the Griffins played the past two games, after losing twice and getting outscored 9-2 in Texas.
"This was a good character check for us," Hoggan said. "They took it to us down in Texas, and we made some adjustment trying to slow them down because you can see how fast they are. We just have to keep the pedal down and keep pushing."
Forward Jordin Tootoo played for the first time since Game 1 against Abbotsford ... Landon Ferraro went through warmups but did not play. He thought he would be ready to play Friday ... Games 6 and 7 are scheduled in Austin, Texas on May 18-19.
As did Michigan Hockey's Pat Evans...
“It’s just the ebb and flow of the series,” Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill said. “We just need to find a way to get to four. We’re a real good hockey team, they’re a real good hockey team.”
Still, the period ended scoreless, as Texas came back and ended up leading the period in shots, 10-8. The second half started with a penalty to Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan rolling over and Stars forward Dustin Jeffrey slipping by the penalty kill and heading untouched past the blue line, deking around Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek before netting the puck past the goalie’s right leg pad.
A minute later, the Stars almost recorded a second goal, but failed to capitalize.
A display of sharp passing from the Griffins helped land them on the scoreboard with a power-play goal 3:38 into the period. Forward Corey Emmerton snapped a cross-ice pass to Teemu Pulkkinen, who crossed it back over to Hoggan, who tapped the puck home as he was skating across the net.
“It was good, we needed a lift,” Hoggan said. “I took a bad penalty and they got one, so it was nice to get one back and start us rolling a bit.”
“It always feels good when you get the win,” Mrazek said. “I could play tomorrow if it’s a big game. This game is over, we got the win. It’s nice, but when I wake up tomorrow, I have to be focused for the Friday game.”
Update #3: Michigan Hockey posted a photo gallery from the game.
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