Oklahoma City Barons 1 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 2 SO
March 16, 2011
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – In a wildly entertaining game with playoff intensity, the Grand Rapids Griffins moved into a tie for fourth place in the North Division and within two points of a playoff spot with a thrilling 2-1 shootout win over the Oklahoma City Barons on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.
Jordan Pearce made 31 saves and stopped four of five shootout attempts to improve to 10-1-1-3 in his last 15 games, as the Griffins (33-25-2-8) pushed their home winning streak to five, their overall point streak to eight (7-0-1-0), and ran their AHL-best record over the last 11 games to 9-1-1-0.
The victory sets up the Griffins’ biggest game of the season to date on Friday, when they’ll begin a 3-in-3 weekend on home ice by hosting the Lake Erie Monsters, with whom they are now tied for fourth. Faceoff is at 7 p.m., and the winner might move into a tie with Toronto for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the North Division.
Despite being outshot by a large margin for most of the opening stanza, the Barons (34-25-2-7) used a power play and a pair of former Griffins to set up their lone goal at 19:06. Taking a pass from Alexandre Giroux high in the left circle, Bryan Helmer sent a back-door feed to Brad Moran for an easy tally.
Francis Pare tied matters 10:49 into the second with his seventh goal in the last six games and 62nd of his Griffins career, moving past Slava Butsayev into sole possession of 10th place on the franchise’s all-time list. Jamie Johnson stole a pass in the Oklahoma City zone and quickly sent a pass out front to Pare, who whipped a shot past NHL veteran Martin Gerber from the slot.
Giroux had a great chance to put the Barons back on top with just five seconds remaining in the period, charging down the slot to redirect a centering pass, but Pearce made a fantastic save to keep it a 1-1 game through 40 minutes.
With 12:18 remaining in the third, Barons defenseman Richard Petiot checked Cory Emmerton hard into Gerber. The netminder suffered an unknown injury and was down on the ice for several minutes before skating off and leaving the game in favor of Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. Later reports indicated that Gerber left the arena on a stretcher.
At nearly the 15-minute mark of the frenetic frame, a Mark Arcobello backhand from the slot rang harmlessly off the iron behind Pearce, while just over a minute later, Jan Mursak was robbed by Drouin-Deslauriers on the other end. Then, the Griffins received power plays with 3:09 and 1:11 remaining, but they could not capitalize on either and the game progressed to overtime.
Giroux, the AHL’s second-leading scorer, had a breakaway from center ice less than two minutes into the extra period, but Pearce stoned him at the right post with a beautiful kick save. The Barons received their own power play with 2:22 left in overtime, but yeomen work by Pearce, Emmerton, Derek Meech and Doug Janik during a frenzied shift kept the puck out of the net, and the shootout ensued.
Pearce allowed a goal to Chris Vandevelde in the first round before stopping the final four shooters, and Johnson and Pare scored in rounds two and three to send the boisterous crowd of 7,125 home happy.
Gerber finished with 35 saves in the no-decision, while Drouin-Deslauriers took the shootout loss after stopping all 10 shots he faced during the third period and overtime.
Notes: With the 18th win of his Griffins career, Pearce moved into a tie with Neil Little and Martin Prusek for 10th place on the franchise’s all-time list…Meech made his 293rd appearance as a Griffin, tying Darryl Bootland for fifth all time.
Three Stars: 1. GR Pearce (W, 31 saves); 2. OKC Gerber (ND, 35 saves); 3. GR Pare (goal, shootout goal)