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02/16/2011 9:45 PM -

Hamilton Bulldogs 3 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5

Feb. 16, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – An historic and memorable performance by captain Jamie Tardif willed the Grand Rapids Griffins to a hard-fought 5-3 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.

Despite being knocked out of the game early in the third period due to a vicious head check by Ryan Russell, Tardif soon returned to pot his decisive second goal of the night and 70th of his Grand Rapids career, moving him into fifth place on the Griffins’ all-time goal-scoring list.

The Griffins (24-24-1-6) moved back to the 0.500 mark and within six points of a playoff spot in an ever-tightening North Division race, while the Bulldogs (28-20-1-4) suffered their fifth straight defeat and seventh loss in their last eight games. Grand Rapids will continue its 4-in-5 gauntlet on Friday when the Texas Stars pay a 7 p.m. visit to Van Andel Arena.

The Bulldogs opened the scoring and broke a nine-game power play drought 12:50 into the first period, as Mathieu Carle put a wrist shot past Jordan Pearce from the edge of the left circle.

Jamie Johnson answered for the Griffins during a 4-on-4 at 16:30, taking a nifty pass from Francis Pare before putting his own rebound past Curtis Sanford from close range.

Hamilton took a 2-1 lead to the locker room, though, capitalizing off a turnover at center ice. Aaron Palushaj sped down the left side and attempted a centering pass for a net-crashing Dustin Boyd, but the puck redirected off a Griffins defender and trickled over the goal line just before Pearce could sweep it away.

In the second frame, Grand Rapids forged another tie on Tardif’s career-high 18th goal of the season. Three seconds after a Griffins power play expired, he took a pass from Brendan Smith and beat Sanford from just outside the paint at 10:18.

A little over three minutes into the third, Russell was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his hit to Tardif’s head, part of a quick succession of penalties that eventually resulted in a 5-on-3 power play for Grand Rapids. It took less than a minute for the Griffins to take advantage, as Cory Emmerton worked his way from the right boards to the high slot and snapped a shot past Sanford at the 4:01 mark.

Following a brief trip to the locker room for evaluation, Tardif returned to the bench a couple minutes later and exacted his personal revenge with five seconds remaining in Russell’s major, finishing off a goal-mouth scrum by scoring from the left side at 8:04. Tardif’s second goal of the game gave him the team’s leadership on the season, one ahead of Ilari Filppula (18), and also put him one ahead of fellow Welland, Ontario, native and former Griffins captain Matt Ellis (69) on the team’s all-time goals list.

Frederic St. Denis scored from the high slot at 16:31 to pull the Bulldogs back to within a goal at 4-3, but Tomas Tatar sealed Hamilton’s fate with an empty-netter with 44 seconds remaining.

Pearce made 22 saves for the win while Sanford, the AHL’s second-ranked netminder, surrendered four goals on 36 shots.

Three Stars: 1. GR Tardif (two goals); 2. GR Johnson (goal, assist); 3. HAM Boyd (two assists)

Griffins Game Rewind
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ESPN Radio Highlights:  Johnson goal  Emmerton goal  Tardif goal 2
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