GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – On the strength of Petr Mrazek’s 27 saves, the Grand Rapids Griffins claimed Game 1 of a conference final for the first time ever on Friday, earning a 2-1 win over the Oklahoma City Barons at Van Andel Arena.
Landon Ferraro’s goal 2:35 into the second period held up as the game-winner, as the Griffins also won a conference finals game on home ice for the first time in 10 years and three days, dating to a Game 6 victory over Houston on May 21, 2003.
The most unlikely Griffin scored the game’s first goal 7:15 into the opening period. From the left boards just inside the Barons’ blue line, defenseman Brennan Evans – who did not register a goal while appearing in all 76 of Grand Rapids’ games during the regular season – fired a harmless-looking wrist shot that bounced past Yann Danis. It marked Evans’ first goal since Feb. 21, 2012, when he was a member of the Peoria Rivermen.
Oklahoma City answered with 3:20 remaining in the period, as Andrew Hotham took a pass from Jonathan Cheechoo just inside the zone, slashed into the left circle and ripped a shot past Mrazek’s glove.
A great effort by Tomas Jurco led to the game-deciding goal early in the middle frame. Winning a battle for the puck in the right corner, he skated along the end boards and tried a wraparound that glanced off Mitch Callahan’s skate as it passed through the crease, and Ferraro was waiting at the right post to slam the puck home.
Just over a minute later during a Barons power play, Philippe Cornet seemed poised to tie it when a juicy rebound found him waiting on the doorstep, but Mrazek slid across to rob him with a sprawling glove save.
The Griffins, who outshot their opposition in all 11 games over the first two playoff rounds, matched the Barons’ 28 shots on this night. Danis made 26 saves in the losing effort.
Grand Rapids has never lost a best-of-seven series after winning Game 1 (5-0).
Three Stars: 1. GR Ferraro (game-winning goal); 2. GR Evans (goal); 3. OKC Hotham (goal)