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Griffins drop Game 2 vs. OKC; Sproul named CHL’s best defenseman; Frk to play for Mem Cup tonight

Updated with more multimedia at 5:45 AM: The Detroit Red Wings' and their AHL affiliate had rough nights on Saturday. The Red Wings dropped a 4-1 decision to Chicago, and the Grand Rapids Griffins lost a 4-2 decision against the Oklahoma City Barons. Their Western Conference Final series is now tied at 1 game apiece, and the series shifts back to Oklahoma City for three games thanks to the AHL's 2-3-2 playoff format.

The Grand Rapids Griffins' website provides a superb recap:

The Oklahoma City Barons on Saturday became the first team to outshoot the Grand Rapids Griffins during the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs and did so in impressive fashion, riding a 37-22 advantage to a 4-2 win at Van Andel Arena to knot the Western Conference Finals at one game apiece.

After Tomas Tatar gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead late in the first period, the Barons responded by scoring four of the next five goals, including an empty-netter in the final minute.
Grand Rapids, which eventually won five of its previous eight best-of-seven series which were tied 1-1, will now visit the Cox Convention Center for three straight contests, beginning with Game 3 on Wednesday, May 29 at 8 p.m. EDT.

The Barons outshot the Griffins by a 12-6 count in the opening period, but it was Grand Rapids that went to the locker room with a 1-0 lead. Brett Skinner sent a long pass up the right side to Tatar, who sped into the Oklahoma City zone and threaded a quick wrist shot inside Yann Danis’ far post at 17:14. Tatar’s ninth goal of the playoffs put him in sole possession of third on the team’s single-postseason goals list and tied him for sixth on the Griffins all time in playoff goals.

Oklahoma City’s abundance of shots paid dividends during a power play 6:38 into the second. Josh Green flung a puck on net from the point that hit a body out front, and C.J. Stretch was waiting at the left post to pop it into the net.

The Barons started the third period with 52 seconds of power play time that the Griffins successfully killed off, but the visitors took advantage of a defensive lapse seconds later to grab their first lead of the series at 2-1. Four Griffins marked Toni Rajala as he carried the puck into the Griffins’ zone, and he sent a pass across to the right circle to a wide-open Teemu Hartikainen for a blistering one-timer past Petr Mrazek at the 1:03 mark.

Mitch Callahan tied matters for Grand Rapids at 2:58. Sprung into the Barons’ zone by a Brennan Evans pass, Callahan maintained a step on his defender and kept him at bay before slipping a shot past Danis from close range.

Once again the Barons went ahead, though, as Mark Arcobello got his stick on a Philippe Cornet centering pass at the top of the crease, deflecting the puck up over Mrazek at 7:45 for a 3-2 lead. Hartikainen added the empty-netter with 24 seconds left for the final margin.

The Griffins failed on their lone power play chance while ceding one goal to the Barons in three opportunities. Mrazek finished his strong performance with 33 saves – matching his season high set against Oklahoma City on Jan. 23 – but Danis earned the victory with 20 stops.

Notes: Over their first 34 playoff periods, including the first frame of last night’s Game 1 victory, the Griffins were outshot only five times. The Barons have since outgunned Grand Rapids for five straight periods…A remarkable lose one, win two playoff pattern continues for the Griffins, who since falling to Houston in Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals have answered every defeat with exactly two wins before losing again.

As the Edmonton Oilers follow their AHL affiliate very closely, EdmontonOilers.com's Ryan Dittrick was dispatched to Grand Rapids to tell the Barons' side of the story...

It was a great win for us," said Head Coach Todd Nelson. "It was the game that I was looking for. We wanted to get back to the way that we were playing against Texas. We didn't quite have that edge (Friday), but tonight we did. We played with a full 60-minute effort."

"It's a huge win for us," added Hartikainen, who's now collected six goals and 13 points this post-season. "Our goal was to win at least one game here and we've done that."

In a period largely controlled by the visitors, a late goal by Tomas Tatar gave Grand Rapids a 1-0 lead after one.

The Barons came out with the bite they were looking for, out-hitting the home side 13-4, but the execution was lacking. With less than three minutes to play in the period, Tatar pounced on an error by Andrew Hotham as the defenceman's outlet pass failed to connect with Philippe Cornet up in neutral ice.

Cruising back in transition, Tatar beat Danis clean with a blocker-side wrist shot, 14 inches above the ice, securing his ninth goal and 13th point of the playoffs.

Leading 12-6 in shots after 20, the Barons were in full control of the game but couldn't solve Griffins rookie Petr Mrazek. Frustrating? Not according to the coach. His message to the group was simple: Stick with it.

"To be down 1-0, we faced a little bit of adversity -- but we've been doing that all year," said Nelson. "Our guys stuck to the game plan and good things happened."

As did the Oklahoman's Dean Holzwarth...

Arcobello scored at the 7:45 mark of the final period to snap a 2-2 tie. Philippe Cornet threw a shot toward the net that hit off Grand Rapids goaltender Petr Mrazek's pad and Arcobello smacked at the rebound. The puck deflected up and landed in the net behind Mrazek.

“I whacked at it, and the next thing I know it was up in the air,” Arcobello said. “I saw it pop in the air, and I saw (Mrazek) looking for it. Obviously he didn't see it, and it bounced behind him. We got a lucky bounce, but we made our own luck, and I felt like our line deserved one there.”

The goal was Arcobello's first of the series and 10th of the playoffs after his five-game goal streak was snapped in Game 1. He currently has a nine-game point streak.

“I'm going to keep trying to contribute to the win, and if I'm not going and we get the win, it doesn't really matter,” Arcobello said. “It's good to see other guys picking me up and putting the puck in the net, too, and I definitely felt like we were a lot of fresher tonight than (Friday night). We came out strong and maintained pretty good pressure all night.”


The Barons had a 36-22 shots on goal advantage, and outshot Grand Rapids in every period.


“I thought we played with desperation, and our guys won their share of battles,” Nelson said. “When things broke down, Yann was there, and it was a good solid effort from all 20 guys.”

And the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner relates the Griffins' takes on their loss:

“I didn’t feel like we had as much energy as we normally have,” Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said. “They’re a real good team, so maybe them being on us all the time had something to do with that. But I know from the sense of the bench, we didn’t have the same jump.”

The series, tied 1-1, moves to Oklahoma City for the next three games, beginning Wednesday.

Mitch Callahan kept the Griffins in the game when he broke free 20 feet from the net, turned in a series of shakes and easily slid an open shot to the right of goalie Yann Danis to tie the game at 2-2 three minutes into the third period. But Oklahoma City’s Mark Arcobello scored his league playoff high 10th goal to give the Barons the lead, and they added an empty netter in the final seconds to finish it off.

Fatigue may have been a factor for the Griffins. They were coming off a Game 6 clincher Tuesday in Toronto and Friday night's Game 1.

“It might be,” said Tomas Tatar, who scored his team-leading ninth goal in the first period. “I know I didn’t feel the best today and yesterday, but I don’t want to speak for other guys. But we just have to go through it. There are no excuses.”

The Griffins were outshot badly, 37-22. It was their lowest output in the postseason. For the Barons, it may have been a case of shaking off the rust. They were idle eight days before Friday’s 2-1 loss.

“I don’t think there was a change in how they played as much as they just had more jump in their step,” Blashill said.

In the multimedia department, the Griffins' website and the Grand Rapids Press posted photo galleries...

The Barons' YouTube channel posted post-game interviews with coach Todd Nelson, forward Teemu Hartikainen and forward C.J. Stretch...

The Oilers' website combined the interviews into a post-game report and posted a highlight clip...


And the Griffins' YouTube channel combined a highlight clip and post-game comments from Tomas Tatar and coach Jeff Blashill:


There was some good news in the prospect department: Wings prospect and former Soo Greyhounds defenseman was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to take part in the Canadian Hockey League's post-season awards banquet, and he was named the best defenseman in the CHL--which includes OHL, QMJHL and WHL:

Post Defenceman of the Year: Ryan Sproul (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)

Ryan Sproul recorded 66 points in just 50 games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds this season scoring 20 goals while adding 46 assists.  The 20-year-old from Mississauga, ON, is a Detroit Red Wings prospect selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft and just completed his third season with the Greyhounds.  Finalists for the award include Kevin Gagné of the Rimouskic Oceanic, and Brenden Kichton of the Spokane Chiefs.

The Greyhounds' website took note of the award as well, and Sproul said the following on Twitter:


Staying in Saskatoon, Martin Frk's Halifax Mooseheads will battle the Portland Winterhawks for the Memorial Cup tonight at 7 PM EDT, and the game will air on Sportsnet in Canada.

Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager wonders how well the Mooseheads will hold up...

There are two ways Trey Lewis and his Halifax Mooseheads mates can take the groundswell of support spawned by their run to the Memorial Cup final.

It could causes the walls around a tight-knit group to collapse inwardly. Or it could be one of the spoils of having gone up an incline as steep as Halifax's landmark Citadel Hill across the past four seasons, from 13 wins in 2009-10 to only 12 losses across 88 regular- and post-season games this season.

Even though the Mooseheads team had the longest distance to travel to the tournament among the three league champs, red-and-green clad fans have steadily popped up in Saskatoon. Back in the Nova Scotia capital, fans have gathered in the city's Grand Parade to watch telecasts on a projection screen. Playoff games at the 10,595-seat Metro Centre have sold out in fewer than 30 minutes, which is unheard of even in precincts where major junior hockey is big business.

"It's all about maturity," Lewis says. "Being confident and embracing that and making it work to our advantage, that’s worked for us all year. Playing in front of that many fans has helped us. Even when we’re on the road and we’re seeing them watching it on the big screen in Halifax, it’s pretty incredible, really.

And, amongst his 5 things to watch for:

Who bunkers down? Who opens it up? Portland's Brendan Leipsic and Nic Petan tied for the CHL scoring leader award and their 19-year-old right wing, Ty Rattie, is the most prolific playoff goal scorer in Western League history. Halifax is also a snipeshow with MacKinnon, Drouin and triggerman Martin Frk.

There few surprises that either team can spring this late in the game, though. Scoring chances could come at a premium, so one would not expect another 11-goal game.

"I'm sure they're going be a lot tighter after winning by seven goals, so we have to be prepared to win 1-0," MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon and Rattie are tied for the tourney scoring lead with eight points apiece. Rattie, who's either the Airdrie Assassin or Airdrie Artist depending on one's feelings about the militarization of the language,

"There's no such thing as a shutting down a player like that," Mooseheads co-captain Stefan Fournier. "What's really important is taking time and space away."

Who is more stress tested? The knock on Halifax is that its nucleus has no shared experienced with adversity after they lost only one playoff game. Apparently, the dawn of time occurred some time after April 17, 2012, when Drouin scored in Game 7 of overtime to cap a comeback from 3-0 series deficit vs. the Quebec Remparts.

Portland did have go through an elimination game on Friday against the London Knights. The Winterhawks are a somewhat older group and might have more hurt to convert into hunger. They have their two previous losses in the WHL final, along with having lost coach-GM to Mike Johnston to the suspension that was part of sanctions handed down by commissioner Ron Robison.

Update: More multimedia! Fox 17 posted an auto-play highlight clip, and WOOD TV posted a highlight clip from the game as well:

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Slumpy's avatar

Glad to be leaving the western conference now. Ty Rattie should be playing for The Blues next season. He’s a deadly sniper.

Could use Tatar right now in this series but hard to doubt Kenny now. Tatar before he got sent back to GR seemed to get knocked around easily at the NHL level.

Oklahoma has other things on it’s mind other than hockey like cleaning up but hey maybe it’s a nice distraction for some locals.

Posted by Slumpy from Under My Wheels on 05/26/13 at 05:31 AM ET

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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.