GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins extended their winning streak to three games and earned their first home-ice victory of the season on Wednesday with a 5-2 decision over the Charlotte Checkers at Van Andel Arena.
In perhaps his best outing of the campaign to date, Petr Mrazek turned away 28 of 30 shots, whileTomas Jurco (1-2—3), Gustav Nyquist (2-0—2) and Ryan Sproul (1-1—2) powered Grand Rapids’ offense with multi-point nights.
The Checkers (4-3-0-1), who converted three of four power play chances during their 5-0 win at Van Andel Arena last Friday, received four opportunities during the first period alone while staying out of the penalty box themselves. They capitalized with 33 seconds remaining in a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Jeff Hoggan, as the puck caromed off the right post and slid behind Mrazek and onto the stick of a crashing Aaron Palushaj for an easy tap-in at 15:54.
Grand Rapids answered just 36 seconds later to send the game to intermission in a 1-1 deadlock. From along the end boards, Jurco sent a pass out front to Nyquist, whose quick shot slipped inside the right post of former No. 1 NHL draft pick Rick DiPietro, making his Charlotte debut.
The Griffins took the lead 2:23 into the second period. Seconds after Grand Rapids misfired on a 2-on-1 chance, Brennan Evans launched a shot from the left point that was redirected by the heel ofMitch Callahan’s stick past DiPietro.
Mrazek kept it a 2-1 game by denying Sean Dolan on a shorthanded break about six minutes later, a stop that loomed even larger after the Griffins scored a power play tally at the 11:32 mark. In the waning moments of the home team’s advantage, Sproul collected a Teemu Pulkkinen pass at the point and teed up a cannon that blistered the back of the net and put Grand Rapids ahead by two.
The Griffins scored a second power play goal 11:55 into the final period when Jurco’s wrister from the left faceoff dot trickled just over the line and inside the far post, before Charlotte’s Victor Rask made things interesting at 16:21 by beating Mrazek top shelf from the bottom of the right circle.
The Checkers eventually pulled DiPietro for an extra attacker in an attempt to draw closer, but Nyquist snuffed out their hopes by notching his second goal of the night into the empty net with 49 seconds remaining.
DiPietro finished with 25 saves on 29 shots.
Notes: At 5-2-1-1 (12 pts.), the Griffins are two wins and four points ahead of the record of last year’s championship team through nine games (3-4-1-1, 8 pts.)….Grand Rapids went 2-for-3 on the power play while killing off seven of Charlotte’s eight chances, making the Griffins 14-for-15 on the penalty kill over their last two games….Due to an equipment issue, Tom McCollum spelled Mrazek for 53 seconds midway through the third period….Charlotte suffered its first regulation loss on the road this season, dropping to 4-1-0-1 away from Time Warner Cable Arena.
Three Stars: 1. GR Mrazek (W, 28 saves); 2. GR Callahan (goal); 3. GR Sproul (power play goal, assist)