GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – With their season on the line, the Toronto Marlies ensured that the conference semifinals would return to Ontario’s capital city for at least Game 6, thanks to a 4-1 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins, who had won two straight in this series and three straight playoff games overall on home ice, were victimized by their own special teams play. Grand Rapids went 0-for-5 on the power play, including a pair of two-man advantages in the second period, while surrendering two goals during Toronto’s seven chances.
Still, Grand Rapids carries a 3-2 series lead back to Ricoh Coliseum, where it closed out the Marlies during the 2006 North Division Semifinals and holds an all-time playoff record of 4-1. Game 6 is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Neither team scored during the opening period, much to the credit of former Griffin Drew MacIntyre, who denied a flurry of chances during a late Grand Rapids power play and finished the frame with nine stops.
The Marlies struck with 9:08 remaining in the second, when Spencer Abbott deflected Will Acton’s low shot over Petr Mrazek’s glove. Less than a minute and a half later, consecutive Toronto penalties afforded the Griffins 1:28 of a 5-on-3 advantage, but despite Acton breaking his stick and having to play without one for an extended period, Grand Rapids was unable to capitalize.
That failure was magnified with 4:02 left when Abbott and Acton again teamed up for a goal, this time with Acton finishing off a tic-tac-toe play on the doorstep for a 2-0 Toronto lead.
Goals continued to elude the Griffins, as Jeff Hoggan rang a shot off the post with three minutes showing on the clock, and what would have been 1:22 of another two-man advantage was cut short by an interference call on Chad Billins.
Mrazek robbed Acton twice in the opening minute of the third, but Toronto went back on the power play and made it a three-goal contest when Morgan Rielly roofed a blast home from the bottom of the left circle at 2:20.
Luke Glendening finally lit the lamp for Grand Rapids at 4:25 with a backhand from the slot as the Griffins were hovering around MacIntyre’s net, pruning the deficit back to two and prompting Marlies coach Dallas Eakins to call his timeout.
Toronto scored another power play goal to ice it with 7:02 remaining, as Mike Zigomanis connected on a one-timer from the bottom of the right circle to make it 4-1.
MacIntyre made 32 stops in the win, while Mrazek finished with 20 saves.
Notes: The Griffins have owned a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series four times in their history, going on to win three of them…Grand Rapids, now 3-8 all-time on home ice when its opponent faces elimination, is 6-4 on the road under the same circumstance.
Three Stars: 1. TOR Abbott (goal, two assists); 2. TOR Acton (game-winning goal, assist); 3. Glendening (goal)