The Manitoba Moose rode four power play goals the most ever allowed by the Grand Rapids Griffins in a postseason contest to a 5-1 win in Game 4 of the North Division Finals on Thursday at the MTS Centre, knotting the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Game 5 will be held in Winnipeg on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. EDT, before the series shifts back to Grand Rapids for its conclusion. Game 6 is set for Monday, May 15 at Van Andel Arena, with the potential Game 7 slated for Tuesday.
Jozef Balej, playing in his first game since suffering a kidney injury on Jan. 7, scored on his first shift to give the Moose a quick lead at 1:13. He drove the net and put an unsuccessful shot on Jimmy Howard, but the puck pinballed around the goalmouth before slipping beneath the goalie and trickling across the line.
Manitoba extended its advantage at 8:31 during a 5-on-3 power play. Unable to get a clear or stoppage, the weary Griffins were 70 seconds into their penalty killing shift when the Moose struck, as Craig Darby drilled a one-timer into the top right corner of the net.
With two seconds left in the first period and Manitoba already on its fifth power play, the Moose made it a 3-0 game. Jason Kings shot from low along the right boards somehow found its way over Howards left shoulder into the top of the cage, giving defenseman Kevin Bieksa his third assist of the frame.
Out-gunned 14-3 in the opening 20 minutes, the Griffins saw their hole get deeper on Manitobas third power play goal, 1:58 into the second period. Parked on the doorstep, Alexandre Burrows stopped a Jesse Schultz shot and quickly maneuvered the puck past Howards left pad, spelling the end of the goalies night in favor of Drew MacIntyre.
Midway through the period, after the Griffins were whistled for a fourth straight penalty giving Manitoba an 8-2 advantage in power play chances to that point Schultz made Grand Rapids pay for a turnover in its end. Burrows collected an errant pass along the left boards and broke in on an odd-man rush, sending a pass across to Schultz for an easy tap-in at 11:34. The Moose, out-shot 6-3 for the period, nonetheless had two more goals and a 5-0 lead through 40 minutes.
The Griffins, who suffered their first road loss during the playoffs, finally got on the board during a power play at the 7:42 mark of the third. Wade Flaherty stopped a blast through traffic by Jiri Hudler, but Donald MacLean was standing atop the crease to jam the rebound home for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
The Moose, who have received 17 of the last 22 power play opportunities awarded in the series, finished 4-for-10 on the night, while the Griffins went 1-for-4. Since starting the series 0-for-15, Manitoba has cashed in on six of its last 16 chances with the advantage.
Howard suffered the loss, stopping 11 of 15 shots on the night, while MacIntyre allowed just the one goal on nine Moose attempts. Flaherty halted his two-game slide while making 18 saves.