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HURRAY FOR HOWARD

Jimmy Howard


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
– Jimmy Howard tied a franchise record with his sixth shutout of the season and Matt Ellis chipped in a pair of third-period goals to lead the Grand Rapids Griffins to a 4-0 win over the Toronto Marlies on Friday.

The season’s seventh sellout crowd of 10,834 at Van Andel Arena saw the Griffins (36-28-6-5) maintain their three-point lead over Peoria in the playoff race with five games remaining for each team. Grand Rapids reduced its magic number for clinching its ninth playoff berth in 11 seasons to eight points.

With four road contests slated among their final five games, the Griffins will head to Chicago on Saturday to take on the Wolves in an 8 p.m. EDT start at Allstate Arena.

Grand Rapids jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, beginning with Jonas Johansson’s goal just 2:53 into the contest. Collecting a rebound of Tony Voce’s shot in the right circle, Johansson whipped a shot over Jean-Francois Racine’s glove from the faceoff dot.

At the 13:54 mark, just one second after a Toronto penalty expired, Ryan Oulahen took a pass from Kip Miller low in the right circle and snapped the puck between Racine’s pads. The assist was Miller’s 131st as a Griffin, moving him past Derek King into sole possession of third place on the franchise’s all-time list.

Ellis pushed the Griffins’ lead to 3-0 just before the midpoint of the third period. Skating toward the net on the right side, he attempted a centering pass that was blocked right back onto his stick, enabling him to pop the puck into a gaping net at 9:49. Ellis added a power play goal from almost the same spot with 4:32 remaining, tying Miller for the team leadership with his 25th marker of the season.

Howard finished with 29 saves in earning the eighth shutout of his Griffins career, while Racine made 23 stops for the Marlies (31-38-2-4), who have already been eliminated from playoff contention. Howard tied the single-season shutout mark held by Joey MacDonald, Marc Lamothe, Mike Fountain and Pokey Reddick, while joining the first three as the only Griffins netminders to log back-to-back 20-win seasons.

The Griffins will conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule by hosting the Hamilton Bulldogs next Saturday, April 14. Approximately 700 tickets remain for that contest.


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