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IN LOCKSTEP

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – For teams that split six regular season meetings, it’s only fitting the Griffins and Marlies should be tied two games into their playoff series. Toronto rebounded from the disappointment of Grand Rapids’ triple-overtime victory on Friday to post a 6-3 win in Game 2 of the North Division Semifinals on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.

The Marlies will host the next three clashes on their home ice, beginning with Monday’s Game 3 at Ricoh Coliseum. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Presented with a 5-on-3 power play midway through the opening period, Toronto did not squander its opportunity to jump ahead. With only 11 seconds remaining in the first Griffins penalty – and just after Grand Rapids had whiffed on a chance to clear the puck – Ian White fired a blast from 45 feet that found the net behind Jimmy Howard at 9:18.

Jiri Hudler, the overtime hero of Game 1, put the Griffins on the board at the 14:40 mark, taking a soft pass from Kent McDonell above the left circle and ripping the puck past Jean-Sebastien Aubin. The deadlock was short-lived, however, as NHL veteran Bates Battaglia picked off a pass at the Grand Rapids blueline, skated in and unleashed a shot that deflected off Howard’s glove and into the net with 2:46 remaining in the frame.

Three power play goals highlighted a second period in which the Marlies extended their cushion to 4-2. Brad Leeb scored on a backdoor pass at 3:11 and Brendan Bell converted a wrister from the top of the right circle at 17:13, sandwiching a Donald MacLean goal at 6:28. During a two-man advantage for the Griffins, MacLean collected a Hudler pass at the right faceoff dot and beat Aubin with a wrist shot for his third goal of the playoffs.

Down 4-2 after two periods for the second straight night, the Griffins’ chances of mounting another comeback were dealt a severe blow when Brett Engelhardt trickled a shot through Howard’s five-hole just 17 seconds into the third. Grand Rapids kept fighting, however, and pulled back within 5-3 when Nate DiCasmirro threaded a precise shot over Aubin’s shoulder and into the corner of the net from the right circle less than five minutes into the frame.

Aleksander Suglobov capped off the visitors’ onslaught during a 4-on-4 at the 7:19 mark, out-maneuvering two defenders in the Grand Rapids zone to slip a shot inside the left post. Aubin made 31 stops to post his second win in six career playoff games versus Grand Rapids, while Howard finished with 20 saves.

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