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TIDINGS OF JOY AND COMFORT


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Justin Fletcher popped a shot over Jimmy Howard during a goal-mouth scramble 2:51 into overtime on Friday to lift the Peoria Rivermen to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena.

While the Griffins (17-7-4-3) missed an opportunity to claim at least a share of first place in the North Division for the first time since Oct. 18, 2007, they still climbed within a point of Manitoba and extended their point streak to five games (4-0-1-0). They’ll get another crack at the top spot on Saturday when they host the Lake Erie Monsters at 7 p.m.

The visitors struck first only 3:20 into the opening period when Jonathan Filewich came out of the left corner and stuffed the puck behind Howard, snapping the Griffins’ team shutout streak at 123:39. The deficit was short-lived, however, as Ville Leino redirected Jamie Tardif’s centering pass past Chris Holt during a power play at the 5:46 mark.

Grand Rapids grabbed its first lead 10:53 into the second period when Evan McGrath got ahead of the defense and slipped a backhand through Holt’s five hole, extending his career-high point streak to six games. For good measure, reigning AHL Player of the Week Francis Pare earned an assist on the play, pushing the rookie’s scoring run to five games.

The Rivermen (19-12-1-0) answered on Jonas Junland’s power play blast from the point at 13:56, making it a 2-2 game. But McGrath responded shortly after with his second goal in a span of 5:42, taking a pass from Francis Lemieux in the slot and lifting a shot over Holt’s right shoulder for the Griffins’ second power play marker of the night.

Not to be outdone, Peoria forced overtime on its second power play goal at 5:23 of the third, with Julian Talbot beating Howard on a sharp-angle shot from below the right circle.

The Griffins fell to 1-4 in overtime this season and suffered slight blemishes to their sparkling records when playing at home (10-2-2-3) and when leading after two periods (13-0-2-1).

Howard took the loss with 22 saves while Holt made 28 in the win.


Three Stars: 1. PEO Fletcher (game-winning goal); 2. GR McGrath (2 goals); 3. PEO Filewich (goal, 2 assists)
 

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