Unexpected Hero's Propel Griffins Into First Place With 6-3 Win Over Wolves|
Depleted lineup doesn't slow Griffins...
By Jason Kasiorek
Grand Rapids had every excuse to bow down to the Chicago Wolves, with several top players out of the lineup due to injury or NHL recall. Luckily no one told the rest of the team that, and they got some timely offense from some unlikely sources to double up on Chicago 6-3. Grand Rapids got goals from Jan Mursak (1st career goal), newcomer Mike Walsh (his first of the season), Aaron Gagnon (5), Garrett Stafford (7), Ryan Oulahen (14, tying his career high) and an empty netter for Evan McGrath. Justin Abdelkader and Darren Haydar both had three assists in the game. The Griffins also got some strong goaltending from Daniel Larsson who made 25 saves for the win. The victory moved the Griffins into a three way tie for first place, not just in their division, but in the whole league.
Jozsa gave the puck up right in front of Larsson who had no chance to save the Chad Denny shot from the edge of the paint, leaving the Griffins down 1-0. Despite having a depleted lineup, Grand Rapids is carrying the play so far in period. Aaron Downey came across the ice to smoke Crabbe into the Griffins bench. Tardif made a great play, sending a pass across the front of the net to Mursak backdoor. Mursak smoked it over Pavelec for his first career goal. Shots on Goal: GR 13 - Chi 8.
Grand Rapids cashed in on its second powerplay chance with Garrett Stafford putting on a shooting gallery. He finally found the opening he wanted, timing his shot around a sliding defenseman to bulge the twine behind Pavelec low glove side. The wolves tied things up about two minutes later with Larsson screened when Lavalee tipped a point shot past him. Oulahen regained the lead when he whacked in Abdelkader's weak shot from the circle. Pavelec got a piece of it but just trickled in behind him for a powerplay goal. The Griffins made it 4-2 a minute later when Haydar hit a streaking Walsh with a pass that he flipped up and over Pavelec for a fluky looking goal. Shots on Goal: GR 12 - Chi 8.
Shorthanded breakaway by Machacek looked dangerous, but Larsson stoned him. Gagnon picked up a rebound on the doorstep and deposited it into the empty side of the net to make it 5-2. The Wolves pulled within two when a defensive breakdown led to a centering pass that Lavalee wristed for a backdoor goal. Oulahen scrumming along the boards, showing some grit and spirit. Chicago is starting to come on in the third. A Griffins penalty with 2:26 on the clock send Pavelec to the bench for an extra attacker. Abdelkader steals the puck on the penalty kill and sends McGrath in alone on the empty net for his 10th of the season. Shots on Goal: GR 15 - Chi 12. For the Game: GR 20 - Chi 28.
Oulahen - Abdelkader - Downey
Lemieux - Pare - McGrath
Walsh - Gagnon - Haydar
Tardif - Emmerton - Mursak
Stafford - Jozsa
Kolosov - Pyett
Kindl - Galvin
Ritola - Lower Body
Ericsson - Wrist
Oulahen - Abdelkader - Emmerton
Haydar - Kindl/Stafford
Lemieux - Tardif/Pare - McGrath
Kindl - Stafford
Oulahen - Gagnon
Galvin - Kindl
McGrath - Abdelkader
Kolosov - Stafford
Mursak had a great night and could have had a couple of goals to show for it. He did a good job of getting the puck and driving to the net, creating dangerous scoring chances.
Evan McGrath had a good game as well, and looks to have found another gear in his skating. He was beating Wolves to the puck on the forecheck, and really flying around out there.
Jamie Tardif was also involved all night. He hit anything in purple, and set up some really nice scoring chances.
Kolosov had some trouble on the last Wolves goal, but had another great game all around, playing aggressive and using his size and was involved in the offense.
Aaron Downey was running around laying hits on Wolves players most of the night, but he was out of position to do it, and contributed to two wolves goals by not being where he was supposed to.