GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After Petr Mrazek and Milwaukee’s Scott Darling posted identical 29-save shutouts through the conclusion of overtime, the Grand Rapids Griffins used an unconventional shootout lineup to clinch an important 1-0 win in a thriller on Sunday at Van Andel Arena.
Rookie Martin Frk converted his first pro shootout attempt to kick off the Griffins’ 4-for-5 performance in the skills competition, and defenseman Brennan Evans closed things out in round five on the first shootout try of his 11-year career, deking Darling and putting a forehand shot just inside the post to hand Grand Rapids its second straight win.
Although each team was playing its third game in less than three days, the action was spirited from beginning to end. Energized by a boisterous crowd of 8,451 – which brought the total attendance for the Griffins’ rare three-in-three at home to a robust 27,539 – Grand Rapids maintained its one-point lead in the Midwest Division race over Chicago, which beat conference-leading Abbotsford 2-0 this afternoon.
The Griffins (32-17-2-3), who will play 14 of their final 22 regular season games on the road, will commence a three-game swing with a rematch against the Admirals (23-18-6-6) at 8 p.m. EST Wednesday in Milwaukee.
Grand Rapids’ penalty killers stood strong in the opening period to ensure a scoreless game at intermission, denying three Admirals power plays, including 1:17 of a 5-on-3. Grand Rapids didn’t allow a shot during the first advantage and Mrazek came up big on several occasions over Milwaukee’s extended chance, stopping a total of 11 shots during the frame.
The Griffins’ penalty killers reprised their act during the second period, stifling another two Milwaukee power plays that surrounded a 14-second, two-man advantage, while the Admirals were similarly tested in the third by a pair of Grand Rapids power plays, including 24 seconds of a 5-on-3.
However, Milwaukee enjoyed the best scoring chance of that third period. After exiting from the penalty box with just over 12 minutes remaining, Austin Watson was left alone in front of Mrazek, who made a brilliant save on the shorthanded blast to keep the game scoreless.
In the shootout, Frk and Adam Almquist converted in the first two rounds along with Cory Emmerton in round four, while Mathieu Tousignant, Filip Forsberg and Taylor Beck beat Mrazek in succession in rounds two through four. Mrazek recovered to turn back Simon Moser in the fifth stanza, setting the stage for Evans’ heroics.
Notes: The 1-0 shootout win was the first for Grand Rapids since Jan. 24, 2009 against Quad City…It marked just the ninth game in franchise history that was scoreless at the end of overtime. The Griffins now own five shootout wins, three shootout losses and one tie in those contests…AHL all-star defenseman Alexey Marchenko was lost to an undisclosed lower-body injury late in the second period and did not return after being helped to the locker room…Each team finished 0-for-5 on the power play.
Three Stars: 1. GR Mrazek (W, 29 saves, SO); 2. MIL Darling (SOL, 29 saves, SO); 3. GR Evans (shootout-clinching goal)