Griffins Win Third Straight, Move into Tie for Fourth
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Grand Rapids Griffins rode five second-period goals to a 6-2 victory over the Manitoba Moose on Saturday at Van Andel Arena, giving them a three-game winning streak for the first time since October and moving them into a tie with Rockford and Texas for fourth place in the Central Division.
It's been a dramatic rise in the standings for the Griffins over the last four nights, as they sat in eighth place on Wednesday morning before starting their streak with that night's 3-2 win at division-leading Milwaukee.
It was a consummate team effort, as five Griffins scored goals - led by Michael Rasmussen's two lamp-lighters in his second game back from an extended injury absence - while 11 registered points. Chris Terry recorded three points and Calvin Pickard turned aside 30 shots to notch his third win of the week.
Now squarely in the thick of the playoff race, Grand Rapids (17-19-2-2) will host one of its fellow fourth-place combatants on Wednesday and Friday, as the IceHogs' consecutive visits continue the Griffins' season-high eight-game homestand.
With time expiring in the opening period and the Griffins on the verge of blanking the Moose for the fourth straight period this weekend, Manitoba (18-22-0-0) finally broke through Pickard with 11 seconds showing on the clock. Off a long cross-ice pass from Andrei Chibisov, Logan Stanley launched a one-timer from the top of the right circle that snapped Pickard's home shutout streak at 107:42 and marked the first goal allowed by the netminder over his last 53 shots faced at Van Andel Arena.
In terms of game time, the Moose's lead would last less than one minute. Receiving the puck along the right boards just inside the blue line, Dylan McIlrath immediately threw it to the crease to Dominic Turgeon, who slipped it past Mikhail Berdin 46 ticks into the second period for a 1-1 tie.
Dennis Cholowski soon followed that up by scoring his first career AHL goal in his 40th game in a Griffins uniform. Berdin and the Manitoba defense overplayed Joe Veleno as he drove down the right side, leaving Cholowski a gaping net in which to pot Veleno's centering pass at the 2:36 mark. However, the Moose needed just more than four minutes to answer with their own goal and forge a 2-2 deadlock, as Kristian Vesalainen scored on a shot from the right corner that appeared to deflect off a body in front of Pickard at 6:41.
Undaunted, the Griffins grabbed their second lead of the period at 12:30 after Terry intercepted an ill-advised Berdin pass at the top of the left circle. Berdin left little room for Terry to shoot as he approached the crease, but the crafty AHL All-Star just circled the net before threading a pass through several defenders to Rasmussen on the back door for an easy tap-in.
Another gaff by Berdin resulted in the Griffins' fourth goal of the frame at 15:34 and an end to the goalie's night. With Grand Rapids on the power play, he went behind the net to stop the puck but hesitated in playing it. That enabled a forechecking Turner Elson to knock it off Berdin's stick to Moritz Seider, who had swung behind the net and was able to slip a wraparound into the empty cage before Berdin could recover.
The Moose promptly yanked Berdin in favor of Eric Comrie, who allowed the Griffins' fifth goal with 1:29 left before intermission. During another power play, Joe Hicketts sent a feed into the right circle to Terry, who blasted a slap shot past Comrie to give Grand Rapids a 5-2 lead and mark the team's highest-scoring period since tallying six times in the third period of an 8-4 win at Cleveland on Nov. 4, 2018. Their last five-goal frame at home was the final period of a 5-3 victory over Cleveland on Nov. 25, 2016.
The Griffins scored those five goals over 17:45, after their previous five home goals had come over a span of 330:46, dating back to Nov. 29.
Rasmussen's second marker of the night gave the Griffins a third straight power play goal during a 4-on-3 at 6:21 of the third, as he planted himself in the crease to deflect Hicketts' point shot past Comrie. Comrie stopped 13-of-15 in relief while Berdin suffered the loss after making 19 saves on 23 shots.
The Griffins tied their season-highs for goals scored in a home game and power play goals, going 3-for-7 with the man-advantage and holding Manitoba scoreless in two tries.
Three Stars: 1. GR Rasmussen (two goals); 2. GR Terry (power play goal, two assists); 3. GR Hicketts (two assists)
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