GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Darren Haydar’s four assists, Garrett Stafford’s three points and Cory Emmerton’s two goals powered the Grand Rapids Griffins to perhaps their most important win of the season on Friday, a 5-1 triumph over the division-leading Manitoba Moose at Van Andel Arena.
With the victory, earned before a raucous capacity crowd of 10,834, the Griffins (33-13-6-5) pulled within four points of Manitoba (38-15-0-5) in the North Division race, broke the Moose’s eight-game point streak and ended their 14-game road point streak one game shy of the American Hockey League record.
Grand Rapids will carry a two-game winning streak into the second contest of its three-game weekend at home, a 7 p.m. Saturday matchup with the Lake Erie Monsters.
Despite building a 12-5 advantage in shots during the first period, the Griffins found themselves in a 1-0 hole at intermission. After Grand Rapids had failed to get the puck out of its zone, veteran Mike Keane sent a pass from high along the left boards across to Dusty Collins, who one-timed a blast past Daniel Larsson from the right circle at 13:02. It would prove to be the only blemish on the night for Larsson, who battled through illness to finish with 19 saves.
The Griffins responded with a four-goal second period against the Moose’s Cory Schneider, the AHL’s no. 1-ranked netminder, to take a commanding lead into the final 20 minutes. At the 5:16 mark, Stafford’s try from the right corner slipped through Schneider, deflected off Justin Abdelkader’s left skate and slid across the line for a shorthanded tally.
Grand Rapids then scored three goals in a span of just 1:55 to blow the game open. Emmerton ripped a wrister over Schneider from the right circle for a 4-on-3 power play goal at 13:40, while Evan McGrath scored from nearly the same spot 30 seconds later during a 4-on-4. Following a Manitoba timeout, Emmerton secured his first two-goal game as a pro at 15:35, screaming down the slot to pot Jan Mursak’s pass before colliding with the Moose goaltender.
Curtis Sanford entered the game in relief of Schneider to start the third period, but the change did little good for the visitors, as Stafford sailed a shot from the point over the goalie’s blocker during a power play at 9:52. Sanford stopped the other nine shots he faced in his lone period of work.
Schneider, who made 23 saves in the loss, has now allowed four or more goals in just two of his 26 games this season, both against the Griffins (Jan. 16). He shows a 4.81 GAA and a 0.860 save percentage against Grand Rapids, and a 1.51 GAA and a 0.941 save percentage against the rest of the AHL.
Three Stars: 1. GR Haydar (four assists); 2. GR Stafford (goal, two assists); 3. GR Emmerton (two goals)