The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/01/14 at 12:43 AM ET
Beware: auto-play highlight clips lurk within: The Grand Rapids Griffins began their home-ice defense of their Calder Cup Championship with a chance to sweep their best-of-five series with the Abbotsford Heat...But the series took a five-day break to allow the teams to travel from British Columbia to Western Michigan, and the layoff hurt the Griffins.
Grand Rapids dropped a 2-1 decision to the Heat on Wednesday, and as such, the Griffins will have two more opportunities to win the series, on Friday and Saturday.
The Griffins' website recaps the game's events...
The largest crowd for a Grand Rapids playoff opener since 1998 was forced to contain its enthusiasm for at least another two nights, as the Abbotsford Heat climbed off the mat with a 2-1 win over the Griffins on Wednesday before 7,193 fans.
Markus Granlund scored a power play goal with only 1:02 remaining to give the visitors their first win of this Western Conference Quarterfinal series and force a Game 4 that will be played at 7 p.m. Friday at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins’ offense welcomed back an entirely new and potent line in left wing Mitch Callahan, center Riley Sheahan and right wing Tomas Jurco. Callahan made his first appearance in the lineup since sustaining his infamous broken jaw exactly four weeks ago, while Jurco and Sheahan had not played for Grand Rapids since Jan. 11 and Feb. 21, respectively, due to long tours of duty with the Detroit Red Wings.
The trio paid immediate dividends, teaming up for a power play goal with 2:33 left in the opening period. After Mattias Backman’s long shot hit Callahan out front, Sheahan found the puck in the slot and smartly slid it to a wide-open Jurco, whose shot found the seam between Joni Ortio and the right post.
Grand Rapids finished the first with a 14-7 advantage in shots, carrying over the dominance of Game 2 in which the Griffins outshot the Heat 46-17. Abbotsford turned the tables slightly by a 10-6 count in the second, although the best scoring chances belonged to the home team. Andrej Nestrasil rang a blast off the left pipe from the half-wall, and both Teemu Pulkkinen and Andreas Athanasiou were unable to get their sticks on a centering feed that passed through the crease behind Ortio.
The Heat forged a deadlock early in the third period when defenseman Chris Breen fired a shot that Corey Locke tipped past Petr Mrazek at the 5:52 mark, before a high-sticking call on Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan with 1:20 remaining gave the Heat the opportunity they needed.
Chad Billins, a member of the Griffins’ 2013 Calder Cup championship team who signed with the Calgary Flames organization in the offseason, hit Granlund with a pass at the Griffins’ blue line. Granlund split a pair of defenders and swooped in on Mrazek before roofing a backhand for the winning tally.
Ortio bounced back with a 34-save effort after being pulled in Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Grand Rapids, while Mrazek made 23 saves but sustained his first postseason loss since Game 5 of last year’s finals.
Notes: The attendance of 7,193 marked the Griffins’ fourth-largest playoff crowd since 2001 and the 10th-largest in franchise history. During last season’s 13 home games en route to the Calder Cup, only Games 3 through 5 of the Calder Cup Finals drew larger audiences…The Griffins dropped to 4-12 all time at home when faced with the opportunity to eliminate their playoff opponent.
Three Stars: 1. ABB Granlund (game-winning goal); 2. ABB Ortio (W, 34 saves); 3. GR Jurco (power play goal)
As did WOOD TV8...
And Fox 17's Steve Amorose spoke with Wings GM Ken Holland during the game:
Abbotsford scored early and late in the third period, the last coming with 1:02 left for a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals before 7,193 at Van Andel Arena.
The power play goal by Markus Granlund came 18 seconds after Jeff Hoggan was called for a high stick in front of the bench.
“Any time you lose it stings,” said Hoggan. “You got to get past it. Come back to work. Do some things at practice (Thursday) and keep pushing,”
On the high stick, Hoggan said, “I was protecting the puck, went to hit him and got knocked off balance and he got knocked forward and came up and clipped him.”
Coach Jeff Blashill said the Griffins “have to do a better job on the penalty kill in that situation.”
In the Twitter department, Mitchell Calahan celebrated his return to the Griffins' lineup with a "tasteful" selfie...
And the Wings posted a Tweet noting that they've made a video about the Griffins:
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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.