With his 53rd goal of the season, Donald MacLean surpassed George Parker of the 1950-51 Rockets as the all-time leading single-season goal-scorer in Grand Rapids professional hockey history as the Griffins defeated the Cleveland Barons 4-1 at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night, becoming just the 13th team in AHL history to reach the rarified air of the 50-win plateau.
Lukas Kaspar got the Barons on the board with a power play goal at 5:10 of the first. Shane Joseph and Mike Iggulden added assists as the Griffins fell behind 1-0 for the sixth consecutive game all resulting in come-from-behind wins.
At 15:34 of the frame, MacLean registered his historical marker on the man-advantage as Bryan Helmer and Eric Himelfarb drew helpers on the game-tying score. The AHLs leading goal-scorer extended his edge over Binghamtons Denis Hamel to seven in the race for the Willie Marshall Award, with nine games remaining for Grand Rapids.
After a double-minor was assessed to Clevelands Glenn Olson at 3:50 of the second, the Griffins made quick work with another power play strike on a crisp pass from the left circle by Kent McDonell to a well-stationed Eric Manlow on the doorstep for the go-ahead goal. Brett Lebda also registered an assist on Manlows 19th tally of the campaign. Newly-acquired veteran defenseman Terry Virtue registered his first goal as a Griffin in just his third game on the roster, notching the teams third power play marker of the night on a quick pass from Jiri Hudler at 17:14 of the frame.
Hudler added a goal of his own at 5:26 of the third, as McDonell sent a pass from the right boards across the circle for Matt Ellis. The captains subsequent shot generated a ripe rebound for Hudler, as the Czech sniper poked a shot past Nolan Schaefer for his 36th lamp-lighter of the year and an insurmountable 4-1 Griffins margin. Jimmy Howard totaled 27 saves on 28 shots to post his ninth straight win, eclipsing the previous mark set by Mike Fountain in 2000-01.
Extending its season-best winning streak to eight games, the Griffins currently stand just one shy of the all-time team mark (9) set during the 2000-01 season and just three total victories away from that clubs 53-win all-time standard. With an overall record of 50-16-1-4 (105 points), Grand Rapids maintains a 17-point advantage over the Syracuse Crunch for the North Division lead and has pared its magic number for the division title down to eight points.
The Griffins return home for back-to-back weekend contests against the Rochester Americans, facing off at 7 p.m. on Saturday night and at 4 p.m. in a Sunday matinee.