The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/24/13 at 03:16 AM ET
The Detroit Red Wings wrap up their back-to-back series against the Anaheim Ducks tonight (8 PM EDT, FSD/FS West/97.1 FM) and begin a set of literal back-to-backs as the team's going to play the Coyotes on Monday (10 PM EDT, FSD/NHL Network U.S.) facing the same task the Wings did before their 5-1 win over Anaheim: Detroit has to "keep up with the Joneses."
The 15-11-and-5 Wings have 35 points and sit in 7th place in the Western Conference, but a team with 3 games left on its 4-game West Coast swing (tonight, Monday and Thursday's game against San Jose) needs to get at least 2 points over the next 30 hours worth of hockey, if not 3, all because the 8th-place Stars sit 2 points behind Detroit, the Sharks, Predators and Blue Jackets sit 3 points behind Detroit, and Phoenix sits 4 points behind the Wings.
I know, I know, I can hear you saying, "We get it already, George!" but the fact remains that those blown games against the unbeaten-in-12(!) Blue Jackets, Wild, Flames, etc. can still bite the Wings' playoff hopes in the ass if the Wings don't find the kind of consistency they haven't displayed since the middle of February...
And earning a point out of tonight's game, never mind two, will be a task and a f***ing half. The Ducks have lost all of one game at home since January 25th--Friday's game--and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau told AnaheimDucks.com's Adam Brady that he gave his charges a healthy workout on Saturday for a reason:
“It’s not because of the game last night, it’s because we haven’t had a chance to practice,” Boudreau said, reflecting on the NHL’s compact schedule. “It’s been a month straight where we haven’t had more than one day without a game, and we’ve still got another 18 days to go before we have more than one day off. Even last night, as bad as you played, you’re wondering if you should practice because you’ve got a game Sunday, Monday and Wednesday again. But I just thought it was good to get on the ice and work on some things.”
The loss was the first in regulation for the Ducks since February 25, after which Anaheim went on a torrid 9-0-3 stretch. And while Boudreau said that losing is “inevitable with the laws of nature and all of those things,” it didn’t make last night’s defeat any easier to swallow.
“You start the season and say, ‘I know we’re not going to win 82 this year’ but every time you lose, you’re still ticked off,” he said. “You want to win every game. You know it’s inevitable, but it doesn’t make you feel any better.”
Boudreau remarked that last night’s locker room was noticeably subdued after the game. “I did all of the talking after the game in the dressing room. It was a very somber room. We haven’t lost in this building since January 25. There was not a lot of music and clapping your hands and being happy. It was a time to reflect on why we got our butts kicked.”
Boudreau saw that postgame reaction from his players as a positive sign. “That’s a good feeling. It means your team doesn’t like to lose, and they’re determined to go out and do something about it,” he said of a Ducks team that’s still holding firmly to the second-best record in the NHL. “That’s hopefully the message. I don’t know if it’s going to work tomorrow, but I know they want to get back on track and play better, like they did against Chicago.”
The Ducks haven’t lost consecutive games since back-to-back shootout defeats in Phoenix on March 2 and 4. They haven’t lost two in a row in regulation at all this season. To keep that trend going, Boudreau said they need to make adjustments tomorrow night in the rematch with Detroit.
“You saw last night, anybody who thought the Detroit Red Wings were dead made a big mistake,” he said. “They play fast all the time, and if you don’t do the things you’re supposed to do, they make you look bad.”
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler told the Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire that the Ducks believe Jimmy Howard got off somewhat easily despite facing 34 shots...
"He was good, he made some big saves, but I don't think we threw the kitchen sink at him," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "We could've used more traffic and crashed the net more.
"We would've liked a little better of an effort in watching" the home win streak "disappear," Fowler said.
And Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth may or may not play tonight, but he hopes that the Ducks' skaters make getting up and down the ice harder for every Wing with a stick (hey, Howard registered an assist on Friday):
"We know they're a team that likes to pass the puck a lot," Fasth said. "They're looking to the seams. Even though we knew that, we let them do it. We weren't good enough."
Fowler said the Ducks focused on the letdown nature of the game Friday after the team had knocked off Western Conference leader Chicago in a stirring Wednesday performance.
"We knew the emotional high we were coming off against Chicago and wanted to bring it again," Fowler said. "At times, we showed it. But you have a few shifts where bounces don't go your way, they make it hurt, and the next thing you know, you're behind the eight-ball. They're so good with their sticks, and knocking down passes, they can create offense immediately from that. We were aware of that. We've just got to clean that up."
Ducks wing Corey Perry also was silenced in his return from a four-game suspension, taking only two shots in 17:38 of ice time, with one shot blocked.
"We don't want it to happen again," Boudreau said. "We better bring our 'A' game, or it's not good."
All in all, the Ducks believed that they'd learned from their mistakes and made necessary adjustments during Saturday's practice and video sessions, as they told the Orange County Register's Eric Stephens:
"Our practice had a lot of intensity and a little bit of emotion on the ice," defenseman Luca Sbisa said. "Our guys got (upset) a bit when things didn't go their way and I think that's the way it's supposed to be. "We weren't happy with the way we played yesterday. We weren't happy with our compete level. And I think a day like this will get us on the right track again."
Francois Beauchemin had a stretch pass by the Red Wings' Brendan Smith skip off his stick and Sheldon Souray failed to keep Justin Abdelkader from getting around him and scoring the first of his three goals. On Abdelkader's third, Sbisa couldn't get the puck out of his zone as Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk kept it in to put the wheels in the motion for a one-timer past Jonas Hiller. The mistakes were enough for Ducks assistant coaches Bob Woods and Scott Niedermayer, along with goaltending consultant Pete Peeters, to gather all seven defensemen and the two goalies for an on-ice meeting Saturday.
"We went over some systems stuff," said Sbisa, who with Bryan Allen was a minus-3. "We talked about little details. So the coaches and goalie coach pulled us aside and we talked a little bit about things we can do better in our zone and helping out our goalies. Just a few refreshers. We haven't had the time to practice in the past month or so. When you have practices like this, you want to go over as much stuff as possible."
Fasth's outing was over but his night of work was just beginning. It was time for him to dissect his performance.
"That's what it's like being a goalie," said Fasth, who fell to 11-2-1 in 14 starts. "You have some rough days and you have to deal with it. Learn something about it. Last night, when I got home, I watched the game over on video. All the shots and all the goals, like I always do even when we win."
NHL.com's Davis Harper's game preview offers a balanced take on tonight's game...
Season series: This is the third and final meeting, with each team winning once in the other's arena. Friday, Justin Abdelkader had a hat trick as Detroit defeated Anaheim 5-1, ending the Ducks' franchise-best 14-game winning streak at Honda Center.
Big story: Two days ago Detroit made Anaheim – the hottest team in the NHL of late – look positively average, snapping the Ducks' home streak and handing them their first regulation loss since Feb. 25. Will Anaheim bounce back and earn revenge over the team that ended the streak, or can Detroit sweep the home-and-home for their fourth win in five games?
Red Wings [team scope]: After mid-March losses to the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets (twice), Detroit bounced back with wins in three of four to vault into sixth in the Western Conference.
Against the Ducks on Friday, the Red Wings looked as good as they have all season. Abdelkader, playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk, scored his first career hat trick, and Datsyuk recorded his 250th career goal. The Red Wings defense -- a source of concern all season -- and goaltender Jimmy Howard stood tall against a relentless Ducks attack.
Who's hot: Howard is 3-0-1 with a 1.24 goals-against average in his past four starts in Anaheim.
Injury report: Red Wings forward Mikael Samuelsson (hand) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) are day-to-day. Defenseman Kyle Quincey (face) is expected back mid-to-late April, and forwards Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi continue to miss time with back injuries. … Ducks forward Nick Bonino (flu) is day-to-day.
And the AP's game preview adds stats to the mix:
The Ducks, three points behind Chicago, have dropped back-to-back games just once this season, 5-4 shootout losses at Phoenix on March 2 and 4.
It's uncertain if rookie Viktor Fasth will be back in net after getting chased in the second period on Friday when Abdelkader's second goal put Detroit up 3-1. Fasth, who stopped 26 shots in a 5-2 road win over Detroit on Feb. 15, came into the game with a 6-0-0 home record.
Jonas Hiller, who turned aside 10 of 12 shots on Friday, could get his first start against the Red Wings (15-11-5) since making 23 saves in a 4-0 home win last March 14. Hiller had lost his previous five starts in this series.
Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard is now 3-0-1 with a 1.24 goals-against average in his last four starts in Anaheim after Friday's 33-save effort. At 7-2-2 with a 1.61 GAA in his last 11 starts, Howard should be in net again as Detroit goes for its fourth win in five games following a three-game skid.
The Red Wings are also trying to extend their road winning streak to four before finishing their trip against Phoenix and San Jose. Detroit last won four in a row away from home from Nov. 19-Dec. 2, 2011.
Ducks forward Teemu Selanne has scored in back-to-back contests following a nine-game drought, but Anaheim would like to see Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf fare better against the Red Wings. Perry has scored one goal in his last 10 games versus Detroit while Getzlaf has gone 13 games in this series without finding the back of the net.
Babcock said he'll decide Sunday on whether to make a change at forward. The only option is inserting Jordin Tootoo. Jimmy Howard will start in goal.
Here are the lines they skated with:
Justin Abdelkader-Pavel Datsyuk-Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Drew Miller/Damien Brunner
Daniel Cleary-Joakim Andersson-Patrick Eaves
Gustav Nyquist-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo
Brunner and Miller alternated on the Zetterberg line.
Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson
Brian Lashoff-Brendan Smith
Jakub Kindl-Ian White
Kent Huskins-Carlo Colaiacovo
Jimmy Howard (starting)
Todd Bertuzzi skated for the second day in a row. He took part in a few line rushes before leaving after about 15 minutes.
“I anticipate it being rough, a lot of hitting,'' Detroit's Drew Miller said. “I don't know if there will be three fights again; could be, you never know. I played in Anaheim (from 2007-09), I know how they get when they're losing or they play a team with a lot of skill. They want to take it to you physically and intimidate you. We got the first win against them here in a while (since Jan. 25), so they're probably pretty upset about that.''
What upset Boudreau was the way Pavel Datsyuk's line dominated. Justin Abdelkader notched his first career hat trick and added an assist. Datsyuk and Johan Franzen each had a goal and two assists. The line was a plus-4.
“We can't let guys like Datsyuk run around with the puck all night long,'' Boudreau said. “It was like on a string. He just didn't want to give it back to us. But, it's not like it's a surprise that he's going to do that. He's one of the best players in the world. We just have to defend better.''
Boudreau might opt to match his big line of Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan against the Datsyuk line rather than the Henrik Zetterberg line (with Valtteri Filppula and Miller), as he did on Friday.
“It's going to be hard game (Sunday), we understand that, we relish the opportunity to play back-to-back,'' Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I look forward to our guys playing well. I thought our goaltender (Jimmy Howard, who'll also start on Sunday) was real good in the early going when we weren't very good.''
Smith called it a confidence-building effort against a team that had gained at least one point in 12 consecutive games (9-0-3) and 18-of-19 (15-1-3).
“We know we can beat them,'' Smith said. “We're a great team.''
“I think we're going to see more of a hard-nosed game, not necessarily going to be fights,'' Abdelkader said. “We're going to be prepared for them to come out hard. We have to be disciplined at the start.''
The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan found that the Wings don't mind trading the prospect of a nasty back-to-back game against the Ducks for not having to travel across the country for a home-and-home series..
"You don't have to get on the plane, instead just cruise back to the hotel and get a good meal and sleep in," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "It was nice in that respect. We didn't have to hop on the plane right away. It reminded me back of college (hockey). It was just like being back in school, playing on the road back then."
For the guys who played college hockey, this weekend series reminded them of the college practice of playing a team twice per weekend.
"For sure," said defenseman Brendan Smith, a former Wisconsin Badger. "It's the back-to back-games, it's cool. Weekend games. It really is a college feeling. It's cool to have that feeling again, it's a lot of fun."
Said forward Drew Miller (Michigan State): "It's a little different in that in pro hockey you don't see it too often. But just the way they've (the Ducks) have been playing this year, it's a good measuring stick for us and it is a playoff atmosphere."
Coach Mike Babcock hadn't decided about any lineup changes, specifically among the forwards (the defense will remain the same he said, along with Howard in net). Babcock added that the dynamic of playing a team back-to-back doesn't force any changes or adjustments in terms of strategy.
"Not really," Babcock said. "Obviously they're going to look at their game and they probably weren't impressed. They came off a real big game (a victory over league-leading Chicago). It's going to be a hard game, we understand that, and we relish the opportunity to play them back-to-back. I look forward to our guys playing well. We have to be better in the early going."
I really do love the Smith quote Khan mentioned, and the Free Press's Helene St. James offers more of Smith's take on the state of the Wings:
While they wait to hear from [Danny] DeKeyser, the immediate focus is on today's game at Honda Center. The Wings won, 5-1, Friday, handing the Ducks their second loss at home this season.
"It's definitely a confidence booster," defenseman Brendan Smith said. "I think when we've played them before, we know that we can beat them. We're a great team. Sometimes we have our lapses, but we're happy about that win, and hopefully we can keep that going."
Regarding the Danny DeKeyser signing sweepstakes: You can watch the CBC's Satellite Hotstove and fast forward to the 6-minute mark, after enduring a full minute's worth of commercials, or you can take Paul's word for the following:
As noted on Saturday, we already know that the Wings have been pursuing the 23-year-old Western Michigan University defenseman for some time--he officially became eligible for NHL teams to sign when Notre Dame eliminated Western Michigan from NCAA playoff contention on Saturday afternoon--and it's actually been assumed that the Wings and Bolts are the favorites for his services, as the Free Press's Helene St. James reported...
The Wings already have made their interest clear to DeKeyser, who is skilled enough and mature enough to step into the NHL right away.
"The agent says they are going through process and will take a few days to make a decision," general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press.
DeKeyser is good enough to step into an NHL lineup right away. His assets include size — he's 6-foot-3, about 200 pounds — and headsy play at both ends of the rink. He can make a good outlet pass, and plays well without the puck.
The Wings have been looking to add to their blueline since losing both Lidstrom and Brad Stuart last summer. Efforts to land Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Sami Salo didn't pan out, and the Wings settled for adding Carlo Colaiacovo just before the lockout. He was removed from injured reserve today after being sidelined since opening weekend with a sore shoulder.
Kyle Quincey, though, is out indefinitely with a fractured cheekbone, but even if that wasn't the case, the Wings would pursue DeKeyser. Part of the attraction is that he can be had just for money — no need to fork over a first-round pick or prospect via a trade.
Do the Wings stand a chance to add DeKeyser? Absolutely. The money is the same no matter what club offers him a deal, so there's no advantage there, for the Wings or anyone else. But DeKeyser is a home-state boy, being from Clay Township. And he's got a tie-in to the Wings via former assistant Jeff Blashill, who was head coach of the Broncos during DeKeyser's freshman year.
Blashill is currently the head coach in Grand Rapids. And with Quincey out, DeKeyser could pretty well bank on being given top-four minutes, including time on the power play.
MLive's Ansar Khan spoke to Wings assistant GM Jim Nill about the team's desire to land DeKeyser (and DeKeyser went to high school with Nill's son, Trevor)...
“We've talked to him for the last few years, all other 29 teams have, too,'' Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “He's one of the top free agents available. He'll have lots of options.''
It boils down to opportunity and where he wants to play, since all teams can offer the same amount of money, which is restricted to an entry-level contract.
“He's getting the same contract (offer) from everybody,'' Nill said.
Nill said there is a lot to like about the 6-foot-3, 200-pound DeKeyser, who turned 23 on March 7.
“He's a character player, great family background, great size, range, moves the puck well, a very good skater for a big man,'' Nill said. “He's solid all-around defensively. Not a big point-producer. He knows the game well, plays within his limitations. He's hard to beat one-on-one because of his range, his reach and his skating ability.''
Nill isn't sure whether DeKeyser's going to step into a team's lineup when he's signed, but he's not discounting the possibility...
“He has the ability to do it,'' Nill said. “It depends on the team's situation.''
And Nill confirmed that the team will sign Northern Michigan University defenseman Jared Coreau soon, too:
Nill said he continues having discussions with the agent for goaltender Jared Coreau and that “We're getting very close.''
The 6-5 Coreau left Northern Michigan after his junior season. He visited Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday.
Otherwise, as MLive's Khan reported on Saturday, Carlo Colaiacovo's been cleared to return after spending the vast majority of the season battling a shoulder injury, but he's not going to be rushed back into action:
“I made it real clear, now that you've been cleared, you got to practice like you're ready to go, and when I see that, and when we need a change, then we'll make it,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “Be a part of practice first, get yourself in shape and then we'll go from there.''
Babcock said he's going with the same six defensemen that played on Friday.
Colaiacovo is relieved to be cleared more than a month before the playoffs. He has appeared in only two games. Dealing with a lot of frustration and the shoulder not responding as quick as I'd like,'' Colaiacovo said. “I busted my rear both on and off the ice. I feel like I'm in great shape from all the bag skating. Just a matter of be going out and playing. It's killing me not to be out there. But, the team is playing well. It's fun to be a part of this.''
Colaiacovo, who signed a two-year, $5 million contract on Sept. 14, isn't likely to get in until there is an injury or Babcock feels a change is needed after a bad game by somebody.
“Obviously, this season hasn't gone the way I'd like but at the end of the day I believe in myself, believe in my abilities,'' Colaiacovo said. “I believe I can help this team win.''
Ditto, confirms the Free Press's St. James:
"I made it real clear, now that you've been cleared, now you've got to practice like you're ready to go," Babcock said. "When I see that, and when we need a change, then we'll make it. Obviously, it's great to have options and great to have depth, but I'm going to go with the crew I had."
Colaiacovo said it was a relief to be cleared after spending so much time recovering.
"I've been dealing with a lot of frustration with the shoulder not responding as quick as I liked. But I feel like I'm in great shape from all the bag skating I've been doing."
The Detroit News's Kulfan also delivers good news regarding the Wings' attempts to extend Jimmy Howard's contract:
Howard said talks are progressing well with the Red Wings on a new contract. Howard can be an unrestricted free agent July 5, but has continuously said he'd like to remain with the organization that drafted him.
It wouldn't be surprising at all to see a new deal worked out within the next week or two.
"This is where I want to be," Howard said. "I love the guys here, the management, the coaching and training staffs. Another thing is the comfort level. I know what to expect and what is expected out of me. I want to be a Red Wing."
The Red Wings want fans to know that they're down the finalists for their "Miller Lite Red Wing for a Day" contest (I know Stephen Brooks, for what it's worth), and their Ultimate Wingman contest is still open to entries;
The Central Collegiate Hockey Association finals will take place at Joe Louis Arena today, and will mark the end of the CCHA's existence as the Big Ten Conference's starting up next season. As DetroitRedWings.com's Stefan Kubus and Alyssa Girardi note, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan will battle for the last Mason Cup today at 2:05 PM EDT (on Fox Sports Detroit).
And, for the record:
In the rumor and scuttlebutt department, from the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons:
Steve Yzerman won’t name a Team Canada coach until he gets word from the NHL that players will be cleared for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. But he knows who that coach will be. Clearance, if it comes, isn’t expected for about a month. As GM of Team Canada, Yzerman also has two gameplans: One for NHL participation, one for non-NHL participation.
And the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch suggests that Wings fans shouldn't get their hopes up regarding Ken Holland making any kind of meaningful trade deadline acquisition:
DETROIT RED WINGS: The Wings would have been upset to see Perry re-sign with the Ducks. They were prepared to make a big pitch in July. They have depth, but the Wings need to get a star. That's not going to happen at this deadline because they aren't just one player away from a Cup run.
In the prospect department, this is pretty cool: Red Wings prospect Willie Coetzee scored the Toledo Walleye's only goal in the team's 3-1 loss to Reading, leaving the Walleye with 2 points to earn over its last 2 regular-season games to earn an ECHL playoff spot, but Coetzee's on quite a roll, as the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe noted...
Walleye forward Willie Coetzee kept his hot streak alive. Coetzee got Toledo on the board with 4 minutes, 39 seconds left. Coetzee scored his team-leading 28th goal of season. He has collected 24 points in 17 games.
“I think we weren’t out-battling them, outworking them,” he said. “We gave them too much respect. We should have realized this team wouldn’t give us anything.”
Toledo has three games left in the regular season, and the Walleye have another chance to clinch with a point when the teams meet again at 5:05 p.m. today at the Huntington Center.
“We need to outwork every team,” Coetzee said. “We need to be on the ball and make sharp plays.”
And the Toledo Blade gave Coetzee a serious plug on Saturday:
Toledo Walleye forward Willie Coetzee emerged as the winner of an exclusive online poll as more than 22,000 votes were cast to determine the team's most popular player.
Coetzee was the top vote getter in The Blade's “My Favorite Walleye” online poll. Coetzee, a 22-year-old native of South Africa, will be honored prior to tonight's game against Reading at the Huntington Center.
Coetzee received 10,340 votes or 45.8 percent of the total votes cast. Forward Travis Novak was second with 7,114 votes, followed by defensemen Phil Oreskovic (2,397 votes) and Wes O'Neill (1,307).
There were 22,585 votes cast in the poll which ran from March 6-21. This is the second year The Blade has run the online poll. Forward Riley Emmerson earned the most votes last season.
Coetzee, a highly-skilled, offensive forward, has been Toledo's top producer this season. He leads the team in points (62), goals (27), and assists (35).
Coetzee received the award very happily, as Monroe noted:
"Willie has been unbelievable,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “He's been a horse for us.”
Coetzee, who is in his third pro season, ranks fourth in the ECHL with 250 shots on goal.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound winger was selected to represent the Walleye organization at the ECHL All-Star game in January.
After being sidelined with a concussion for six games in early February, Coetzee has been on a tear. He has collected 23 points in 16 games. He has scored eight goals to go along with 15 assists to help the Walleye in their push to make the playoffs. He also is tied for the team lead with four game-winning goals.
Coetzee, who lived in Johannesburg until he was 4, moved to Vancouver and signed a free agent contract with the Red Wings in 2009. With the Walleye, Coetzee had nine goals and 11 assists in 36 games.
“It means a lot to me,” Coetzee said. “I thank the fans for that. I appreciate the support. The fans are here for you and it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s awesome playing here in Toledo. I respect them.”
The Walleye's website posted a video of Coetzee receiving the award and discussing the honor...
And he thanked Walleye fans on his Twitter account:
In Finland, Teemu Pulkkinen had an assist in Jokerit Helsinki's 4-3 overtime loss to Lukko. Jokerit trails their second-round series 2 games to 0
In the QMJHL, Martin Frk took 7 shots but didn't register a point in the Halifax Mooseheads' 2-1 win over Saint John. Halifax leads their first-round series 2 games to 0;
Phillipe Hudon didn't register a point as his Victoriaville Tigres' dropped a 3-2 decision to Moncton, tying their irst-round series 1-1;
In the OHL, Alan Quine didn't register a point in the Belleville Bulls' 5-1 win over Mississauga. Belleville leads their first-round series 2 games to 0;
Andreas Athanasiou registered 1 goal, 2 assists, a +3 and was named the game's first star as his Barrie Colts defeated Kingston 7-4, giving Barrie a 2-0 first-round series lead;
Ryan Sproul didn't register a point in the Soo Greyhounds' 4-2 loss to Owen Sound. The Soo now face a 2-0 deficit in their first-round series;
And in my backyard, the Plymouth Whalers defeated the Sarnia Sting 3-2, giving the Whalers a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.
In regular season play...
In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins avenged an OT loss to the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday with...An OT win in Cleveland on Saturday. The Griffins defeated Lake Erie 5-4 in OT, and the Grand Rapids Grifins' website provides a recap, a photo gallery and a slate of highlights...
What started as a one-sided affair ended in a dramatic, come-from-behind overtime victory for the Grand Rapids Griffins, as Adam Almquist’s career night led the team to a 5-4 win over the Lake Erie Monsters on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Monsters (28-28-3-7) picked up where they left off last night, when they defeated the Griffins 4-3 in a shootout at Van Andel Arena. Back on home ice, Lake Erie scored two goals in the first 3:11 of the game, courtesy of Luke Walker’s eighth of the season at 2:14 and Mike Sgarbossa’s 19th of the season just 57 seconds later.
Bill Thomas extended Lake Erie’s lead to three at 11:32 of the opening frame. With the Griffins skating down a man, Joey Hishon found the puck after a frantic goal-mouth scramble, sliding it past Tom McCollum and off Thomas’ skate. Hishon picked up his first professional point on the play after recording the shootout-deciding goal last night.
Despite the deficit, the Griffins (37-21-3-3) came out with a renewed energy for the second period. Their efforts were rewarded at 1:27, when Almquist notched his first of the night. Almquist stepped up at the blueline to intercept a Monsters’ clearing attempt and gave the puck to Tomas Tatar inside the blueline. Almquist drove to the net and collected a cross-crease feed to put the Griffins on the board.
Louis-Marc Aubry gave Grand Rapids more life at 9:16 of the second period. Aubry collected a pass from Almquist and skated the puck deep into the Monsters zone. He appeared to be looking for a pass before letting a shot go that beat Calvin Pickard under the glove and cut the home team’s lead to one.
The Griffins drew even at 18:39 of the second period after Mitch Callahan’s 11th goal of the season. Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan put a shot on goal that was stopped, but Callahan jumped on the rebound and slipped the puck between the legs of Pickard.
The teams exchanged goals early in the third period to knot the game at four. David van der Gulik cleaned up his own rebound in front of the Griffins net at 3:42 before Almquist struck back with his second of the night just 65 seconds later, sneaking in from the point to one-time a pass from Tatar into the net.
Tatar and Almquist connected again with just 10 seconds left in overtime, as the Griffins defenseman registered his third goal and fourth point of the night with a blast over Pickard’s glove, capping off the wild victory. Almquist became the third defensemen in franchise history to record a hat trick and the second to do so in under a month, joining Chad Billins (Feb. 24 vs. San Antonio) and Logan Pyett (Feb. 27, 2011 at Hamilton).
McCollum made 33 saves in the win for Grand Rapids, and Pickard stopped 22 for Lake Erie.
The game marked the Griffins’ first of a season-high seven-game road trip. The team will be back in action on Thursday at San Antonio at 8 p.m. EDT.
The Monsters should have been celebrating a home-and-home sweep of the Grand Rapids Griffins. Instead, their goalie exited the ice spiking his helmet and flinging his blocker in disgust.
Defenseman Adam Almquist scored with 9.8 seconds left in overtime to give the Griffins a 5-4 victory on Saturday night at The Q. Almquist notched a hat trick.
Lake Erie (28-28-3-7) squandered a three-goal lead. It was unable to build fully on a 4-3 shootout victory at Grand Rapids on Friday night. The Griffins, first place in the Midwest Division, improved to 37-21-3-3.
Almquist's blast from the right circle occurred as teammate Francis Pare made contact with goalie Calvin Pickard, who was outside the crease. Pare sealed off Pickard's right side as the puck zipped past. Once a goalie is outside the crease, it is the official's discretion as to whether interference should be called.
When no help came, Pickard blew a fuse or three. After spiking the helmet and shedding the blocker, he slammed his stick. Pickard was assessed a game misconduct for abuse of officials.
As expected, Pickard said after the game that he thought he was interfered with. But he kept his comments to a minimum.
"My emotions got the best of me," he said. "The officials made the call (for a goal), and there's nothing I can do about it."
And finally, in the USHL, I believe that Mike McKee's served his suspension for boarding, but the Lincoln Stars' captain sat out the team's 3-2 win over Omaha.
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