WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Another defensive struggle went the way of the home team on Saturday, as the Manitoba Moose held serve for the second straight night with a 2-1 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 2 of the North Division Finals at the MTS Centre.
Cory Schneider made 28 saves to stifle a Griffins offense that buzzed around the Manitoba zone much of the night, while Jimmy Howard stopped 20 to lead a penalty killing unit that denied all five Moose chances and kept Grand Rapids within striking distance.
The Griffins will return to Van Andel Arena to host Games 3-5 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (if necessary).
A shorthanded goal by Alexandre Bolduc gave the Moose the lead only 4:34 into the contest. Forechecking below the Griffins’ goal line, he forced a turnover and fought through a pair of defenders to skate out with the puck and whip a far-side shot inside the left post.
Grand Rapids did not register a shot on goal of its own until the game was 10:49 old, getting out-shot 4-0 in a slow start reminiscent of Friday’s Game 1. But the Griffins carried the play over the remainder of the frame, out-gunning the Moose 7-5 for the period and enjoying a number of other scoring chances that either sailed just wide or were blocked before they could get to Cory Schneider, taking the momentum into the locker room despite a 1-0 deficit.
The Griffins’ persistence paid off in the form of a power play goal by Darren McCarty at 6:31 of the second, as he set up in the slot and deflected a Brian Lashoff pass from the right side past Schneider.
The deadlock did not last long. Moments after a Griffins player swept the puck out of harm’s way just before it crossed the line behind Howard, the Moose came charging back up ice and took a 2-1 lead when Jason Krog redirected Bolduc’s centering pass at the 10:10 mark.
The first truly bad blood of the series spilled with just over six minutes left in the period. After a Pierre-Cedric Labrie hit on Lashoff behind the play in the Griffins’ zone left the rookie defenseman dazed and unable to continue, Aaron Downey ran over Schneider on the other end, knocking off the netminder’s helmet and drawing a five-minute major. But his Grand Rapids teammates stepped up and killed the entire penalty, giving the Griffins another boost as they prepared for the final 20 minutes of play.
The Griffins out-shot the Moose 14-8 in the third but Schneider continued his rock-solid play, stopping Darren Haydar on a penalty-drawing breakaway attempt before stoning McCarty on a point-blank shot from the slot during the ensuing power play midway through the frame. The Griffins maintained pressure in the waning minutes, but a pair of penalties in the final 2:15 extinguished their hopes for the tying tally.
The Griffins are 0-3 all-time in best-of-seven playoff series when falling behind two games to none.
Three Stars: 1. MTB Schneider (W, 28 saves); 2. MTB Bolduc (shorthanded goal, assist); 3. GR Stafford (assist)