OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The visiting team not only brought new firepower to Game 4, but also had stellar goaltending. Petr Mrazek earned his third shut-out of the post-season, while his teammates scored four goals in this AHL Western Conference Series.
The Griffins special teams come out strong, as the first goal of the game was a power-play goal scored by Joakim Anderson, his first post-season score as he was assigned by the Red Wings on Thursday. Assisting on this score, and obviously part of the “new look” power-play unit was Gustav Nyquist also recently assigned by the Red Wings, and Chad Billins.
Riley Sheahan’s score put Grand Rapids ahead by two goals, the first two goal lead for the Griffins in this series. With five minutes remaining in the second period, it appears the Barons had scored. However the goal was waived off, with the ruling the puck was kicked into the net.
Grand Rapids would increase the lead to three goals, mid-way thru the game, on a score by Landon Ferraro. This goal was scored while each team was skating with four players, as Luke Glendening and Andrew Hotham were in the penalty box for rouging minors.
“Super pest” Antti Tyrvainen does what he does best, and drew Mitch Callahan into a fighting penalty. Callahan was assessed an extra minor roughing and the Barons power-play unit went to work.
Oklahoma City had 15 shots on goal in the third period, yet remained scoreless. Due to a hooking penalty to Mark Arcobello, goaltender Yann Danis was pulled for an extra skater. This strategy did not work, as Griffin Jan Mursak scored an empty net power-play goal with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
With 1:01 remaining of the game clock, Tyrvainen and Callahan exchanged punches at the bench and both were assessed double minors. At the buzzer, Tomas Jurco began wildly swinging at Andrew Hotham, despite his location behind the net. There were 38 penalty minutes assessed in the game, giving Grand Rapids two power-play opportunities, and Oklahoma City having four.
The Griffins were 2 for 2 with both Anderson and Nyquist on the power-play. “Their power-play was definitely different; more dynamic with those guys,” said Coach Todd Nelson. “I felt they had a bit more confidence with those two additions [Anderson and Nyquist],” said Green. “They were a bit better in their decision making,”
Oklahoma City out shot their opponent 40 to 32, yet were shut out. “I think there were quantity shots, I didn’t think we had quality shots,” said Green. “We have got to do a better job of battling for pucks, better position in front, getting those second opportunities and a better job of finishing as well.”
The penalty kill that had been perfect in this series (9 for 9) was shattered by two power-play goals. The absence of Tanner House was noticeable. “He is a great penalty killer for us: he is strong on draws, and his a guy that sacrifices his body to get into the lanes and block shots,” said Green. “They are skilled guys making plays in the offensive zone. They were making some nice passes through our box and got an opportunity.”
“They are pretty offensively dynamic players,” said Barons Captain Josh Green. “They got us running around on the penalty kill. We have got to find a way to neutralize them a little more.”
The power-play needs some fine-tuning as the Barons have been 1 for 15 in this series. “The team that plays in the offensive zone more, is going to have more chances,” said Nelson. “I thought that our execution wasn’t as strong tonight. That resulted in not being efficient in your own end.”
With Game 4 being postponed from Friday to Saturday due to flooding of the arena, Game 5 will be played Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City. The inevitable Game 6 will be Tuesday in Grand Rapids.
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