GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A well-balanced attack paced the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals at Van Andel Arena, giving the Griffins a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Five Griffins scored goals and six enjoyed two-point nights, including Jan Mursak, whose goal just 46 seconds into the third period proved to be the game-winner. Grand Rapids never trailed but saw a 3-1 lead evaporate before outscoring Toronto 2-1 over the final 23 minutes.
Jeff Hoggan and Adam Almquist teamed up exactly two minutes apart to give Grand Rapids an early 2-0 lead. Just 3:45 into the contest, Almquist sent a blast past Drew MacIntyre from the left point off a Hoggan feed. Almquist then earned an assist when Hoggan banked a shot off MacIntyre from the left goal line.
Ryan Hamilton, freshly assigned to the Marlies following the Toronto Maple Leafs’ historic loss to Boston in Game 7 on Monday, put the visitors on the board at the 14:21 mark, tapping home a loose puck that teetered on Petr Mrazek’s goal line after a failed wraparound attempt by Carter Ashton.
The teams traded goals in the opening minutes of the second period to make it a 3-2 game. Tomas Tatar scored his team-high sixth goal of the postseason at 2:38, taking a pass from Riley Sheahan in the bottom of the right circle and patiently lifting a shot into the cage. But Toronto answered at 4:20 thanks to a favorable bounce, as Chad Billins’ reversal attempt caromed oddly off the end boards and right onto the stick of Spencer Abbott, who quickly beat Mrazek at the right post.
Greg McKegg tied it for the Marlies during a power play at 9:16, taking a cross-ice pass from Abbott at the left post and chipping the puck over Mrazek. The Griffins, though, capitalized on their own chance at 17:06 to take a 4-3 lead into the third, as Francis Pare rushed in to pop a rebound past MacIntyre.
Moments into the final period, Mursak potted a centering pass from Landon Ferraro to restore Grand Rapids’ two-goal cushion at 5-3, but again the Marlies responded on Ashton’s wrister from the point five minutes in.
A potential shorthanded goal by the Marlies’ Mike Zigomanis was quickly reviewed and waved off with 2:29 remaining. After MacIntyre headed to the bench with 1:15 left, Mrazek made one strong save on a backdoor play but was challenged no more, finishing with 16 saves and improving his record to 5-3 in the postseason.
MacIntyre, the former Griffin, made 27 stops on the night. Both teams went 1-for-4 on the power play.
Notes: The Griffins have won five of six best-of-seven series all time after leading two games to one…Tatar’s six goals tie him for the eighth-most ever by a Griffin in a single postseason. Kevin Miller tallied a record 11 goals in 17 games during the 2000 IHL Turner Cup Playoffs, while Stacy Roest set the team’s Calder Cup Playoff mark with 10 goals in 15 games in 2003.
Three Stars: 1. GR Pare (power play goal, assist); 2. GR Mursak (game-winning goal, assist); 3. TOR Ashton (goal, assist)