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TOP GUNS SHOOT DOWN WOLVES

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Griffins’ top three scorers – Jiri Hudler, Eric Manlow and Valtteri Filppula – tallied in the final three shootout rounds to lift Grand Rapids to a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Chicago Wolves on Friday at Van Andel Arena. The Griffins (27-11-1-2) battled through the adversity of an unjust Chicago goal and rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the shootout to earn their ninth win in their last 11 games and improve to 14-2-1-2 on home ice.

Grand Rapids will continue its six-game homestand on Saturday with a 7 p.m. visit from the Milwaukee Admirals.

The Griffins needed just 28 seconds to light the scoreboard. Blasting into the Chicago zone, Nate DiCasmirro fired a shot from the left side that Adam Berkhoel turned away, but Matt Ellis crashed the net to bang home the rebound.

The Wolves evened the score midway through the period thanks to a turnover in the Griffins’ end. Off the giveaway, Chicago (14-14-2-6) peppered Jimmy Howard until Jared Ross knocked the puck out of the air and bounced it into the cage at 9:56. It soon after became a 2-1 lead for the visitors, as Mark Popovic’s wrister from inside the blueline found its way through Howard during a power play with 6:48 left on the clock.

Grand Rapids then used its own advantage to knot the score before intermission. Tomas Kopecky snapped a shot from the top of the right circle that Ellis tipped past Berkhoel for his second of the period at 16:42. Filppula also earned an assist to extend his point streak to 10 games, tying for the fifth-longest scoring run in franchise history.

After failing to capitalize on a 5-on-3 advantage that carried over into the second period, the Griffins made amends by scoring twice off rebounds within a 1:09 span to take a 4-2 lead and send Berkhoel to the bench. Kopecky followed up a backhand attempt by stuffing the puck inside the right post at 4:50, and Ryan Oulahen finished off a scramble by scoring into a yawning net from the doorstep at 5:59, ushering Wolves netminder Michael Garnett into the game.

A stunning no-call set up a Chicago goal with 4:39 remaining in the period, as the Wolves’ Billy Tibbetts pitch-forked and hauled down puck-carrier Derek Meech at center ice without a penalty. Colin Stuart tracked down the puck at the top of the left circle and, alone in the zone with Howard, ripped a slapshot that clanged off the crossbar and into the net.

The miscarriage of justice proved even more disastrous once the Wolves scored their fourth goal 5:51 into the third, with Brian Maloney skating right-to-left through the slot and out-waiting Howard before lifting a shot into the top of the net.

The game progressed into overtime, where the Griffins’ inability to convert a power play was balanced by Howard’s outstanding save – his 30th of the night – on a Stuart breakaway with just over a minute remaining. All that was left was Grand Rapids’ shootout heroics, led by Filppula, who improved to 5-for-7 on the season in the tie-breaker. The AHL All-Star is a perfect 5-for-5 when slotted fifth in the shootout, including three goals that won the game and two others that forced sudden death.


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