Monsters rally past Grand Rapids, 4-3, in SO Griffins' winless streak hits four

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Lake Erie Monsters rallied twice in regulation and once in the shootout before escaping Van Andel Arena with a 4-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday.

The Griffins (36-21-3-3), who played their only home contest in an 11-game stretch and now embark on a season-high seven-game road trip, saw their winless streak extend to four games (0-2-1-1), marking their longest drought of the season. Lake Erie (28-28-2-7), meanwhile, broke a five-game skid and won on the road for the first time since Jan. 19.

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Image courtesy of Grand Rapids Griffins

Still, Grand Rapids has earned points in five straight home games (4-0-0-1) and possesses a nine-point point lead over Chicago atop the Midwest Division. The Griffins will begin their road odyssey on Saturday when they look for revenge against the Monsters in a 7:30 p.m. rematch at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Griffins needed only 1:31 to strike first, as Jeff Hoggan carried the puck down the left wing and fired a shot from the faceoff dot that beat Sami Aittokallio. Francis Pare made it a 2-0 game just over seven minutes later during a power play, taking a feed from Brett Skinner and scoring on a one-timer from the left circle at 8:33. The goal was the 99th of Pare’s five-year Griffins career.

Lake Erie cut into its deficit at the 16:05 mark, when Geoff Walker set up shop in front of Petr Mrazek and redirected Sean Sullivan’s wrist shot from the point inside the right post. The Monsters then tied it during a power play 2:58 into the second, with Bill Thomas deflecting Karl Stollery’s blast from the right circle.

Landon Ferraro put the Griffins back on top 3-2 at 10:05 of the third period, whipping a shot home from that familiar left circle shortly before another apparent Grand Rapids goal was waved off. That decision by referee Ryan Hersey proved doubly painful for the Griffins with 6:52 remaining, when Mike Sgarbossa crashed the net to pound a rebound past Mrazek and again knot the score.

Following a scoreless overtime, Chad Billins drew first blood for the Griffins in round two of the shootout, improving to a perfect 4-for-4 this season in the skills competition, but Paul Carey immediately answered for Lake Erie. Then, after Joey Hishon scored for the Monsters in round four, Aittokallio slammed the door on Pare to secure the victory for the visitors.

Mrazek finished with 19 saves for the Griffins while Aittokallio made 29 stops.

Notes: The throwback jerseys worn by the Griffins for ‘90s Night replicated those originally worn by the franchise for its first six seasons (1996-2002). The design was last worn on April 21, 2002 in Game 5 of the AHL Western Conference Quarterfinals at Van Andel Arena, which Grand Rapids lost 4-2 to Chicago, ending its season. The 20 Griffins players who dressed for that game included two who had yet to make their NHL debuts but who are still active in the league after playing in more than 1,200 combined NHL contests: Ottawa’s Jason Spezza (611 GP) and Boston’s Chris Kelly (592 GP).

Three Stars: 1. LE Stollery (two assists); 2. GR Ferraro (goal); 3. LE Sgarbossa (goal)

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