No Rust on Rybar as Griffins Win 4-1
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Grand Rapids Griffins broke open a 1-1 game with three goals during the final period on Saturday, continuing their home-ice mastery with a 4-1 triumph over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before a sold-out Van Andel Arena.
Patrik Rybar showed no signs of rust in making 33 saves during his first appearance since Jan. 25, while Matt Puempel, Filip Hronek and Carter Camper each contributed a pair of points to help the Griffins improve their impeccable home record to 18-4-1-3.
The Griffins (28-15-3-4), who maintain their two-point lead over second-place Iowa in the Central Division race, will continue their seven-game homestand with a rare Sunday home game. They'll host the Chicago Wolves, who sit just five points back in third place, at 4 p.m.
A Chris Terry breakaway 7:36 into the game resulted in a penalty shot after a hook by Chris Summers caused Terry to lose control of the puck, but the AHL's second-leading goal scorer fired wide left on his attempt against Anthony Peters.
The scoreless tie didn't last much longer, though, as the Griffins' power play connected on its third straight opportunity dating to the last two minutes of Wednesday's wild 2-1 win over Manitoba. From the high slot, Camper threaded a pass into the left circle to Filip Zadina, who ripped a shot inside the far post at 10:04 for his 12th goal of the season.
The Penguins pulled even more than a period later, thanks to a pair of fortunate bounces. Ethan Prow's pass from the right point was first deflected by Puempel and then redirected in the slot by a lunging Joseph Blandisi onto the stick of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native Sam Miletic, who smacked a backhand past Rybar from the doorstep at 10:52 of the second.
Colin Campbell was Johnny-on-the-spot 45 seconds into the third period to put the Griffins back on top at 2-1. Puempel's swing at the puck from just outside the crease trickled wide of the right post, but Campbell was waiting to sweep it into a gaping cage.
A brilliant effort by Libor Sulak doubled Grand Rapids' lead at the 8:17 mark. Picking up the puck in his own left corner off a faceoff win, Sulak carried it up the ice, fed it to Dominic Turgeon at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton blue line and headed toward the net. Turgeon's rising shot from the top of the right circle was fought off by Peters, but Sulak was there to whack home the rebound.
Puempel salted away the game with 9:13 remaining during a 5-on-3 power play, hammering a one-timer from the top of the right circle off a Hronek feed to make it a 4-1 contest.
Rybar, who had served as understudy to Harri Sateri for the last four games, marking his longest idle stretch of the season, totaled 13 saves over the final 20 minutes to thwart any chance of a comeback by the Penguins. He lowered his goals against average on the season to 2.32, the fourth-best mark in the league, while raising his save percentage to 0.914, which ties for 10th.
Peters finished with 28 saves for the Baby Pens, whose 24-21-4-1 record ties for fifth in the Atlantic Division.
Notes: The Griffins went 2-for-5 on the power play after going 2-for-4 against the Moose on Wednesday, giving them multiple power play goals in consecutive games for the first time this season. Hronek (2-2 - 4) had a hand in all four goals...Wilkes-Barre finished 0-for-4 with the man-advantage...The capacity crowd of 10,834 marked the Griffins' fifth sellout of the season, fourth since New Year's Eve and third in the last six home games.
Three Stars: 1. GR Rybar (W, 33 saves); 2. GR Puempel (power play goal, assist); 3. GR Campbell (game-winning goal)
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