11/29/2013 8:40 PM
Texas Stars 4 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5
Nov. 29, 2013
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins overcame a sluggish start and survived the visitors’ furious rally in the final minutes to earn their fourth straight win on Friday, 5-4 over the Texas Stars at Van Andel Arena.
After falling behind 1-0 before the game was three minutes old, Grand Rapids scored five of the next six goals to claim a seemingly secure 5-2 lead late in the third period. But Texas scored twice in the final 2:08 to claw back to within one goal before the Griffins held on for the victory.
The Midwest Division-leading Griffins (14-4-1-1), who began their season-high seven-game homestand by winning their fifth consecutive game at Van Andel Arena, have opened up a seven-point lead over both Milwaukee and Rockford in the division race.
Winners of 12 of their last 14 games, the Griffins will look to continue their torrid streak on Saturday when they host a rematch with the Stars at 7 p.m.
Petr Mrazek, who had yielded an average of 0.67 goals over his last three outings, surrendered one just 2:51 into the contest. With the goalie leaning toward the right post after losing track of the puck behind the net, the puck was tipped out front to Taylor Peters, whose shot from below the left circle snuck inside the post before Mrazek could get across.
The Griffins answered with a shorthanded goal by Mitch Callahan at the 10:57 mark. Cory Emmerton charged down the ice on a breakaway with two defenders in tow before being denied by Cristopher Nilstorp, but a trailing Callahan scooped up the rebound and slipped a backhand home to ignite a cascade of stuffed animals from the stands in the Griffins’ annual Teddy Bear Toss. Approximately 3,000 toys were collected for donation to Hug-A-Bears of Kent County.
Grand Rapids was unable to capitalize during a subsequent power play but still grabbed a 2-1 lead just 13 seconds after the advantage expired. Ryan Sproul gathered a pass from Teemu Pulkkinen at the point and fired a laser that Riley Sheahan redirected into the top of Nilstorp’s net at 13:53.
Just when it looked like the Griffins would take their lead into the first intermission, the Stars scored a power play goal with only 2.1 seconds showing on the clock, as former Griffin Chris Mueller slammed a one-timer into the back door from the bottom of the left circle.
The scoring pace abated in the second period, but the Griffins still jumped ahead 3-2 on a David McIntyre goal 9:48 into the frame. After firing wide left of the cage, McIntyre went behind the net, regained the puck off a feed from Triston Grant, circled back out front and roofed a shot from the right side.
Pulkkinen made it a 4-2 game 3:42 into the final period, teeing up a slap shot above the right circle that had eyes for the top left corner of the net, and Jordin Tootoo pushed the margin to three on a deflection with just 3:34 remaining for his first goal as a Griffin.
The Stars (11-7-2-2), befitting a team that boasts the AHL’s top two scorers in Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour, still had some bullets left in the chamber and scored twice with Nilstorp on the bench in favor of an extra attacker. Scott Glennie crashed the crease to score a power play goal at 17:52 and Justin Dowling followed it up with a long slapper at 18:33, before Grand Rapids staved off several chances at a tying goal.
Mrazek, who finished with 21 saves, has now won a career-high seven straight games for the Griffins and eight in a row overall, including his shutout victory for the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 2. His last eight-game winning streak came three seasons ago in junior as a member of the OHL’s Ottawa 67s (Nov. 12-Dec. 3, 2010).
Nilstorp turned aside 34 shots in the loss.
Three Stars: 1. GR Pulkkinen (goal, assist); 2. GR Emmerton (two assists); 3. TEX Mueller (power play goal)
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