GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A pair of Peoria goals late in the third period broke a 4-4 tie and propelled the Rivermen to a come-from-behind 6-4 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
Peoria (19-11-4-3), which fought back to tie the game on three occasions, completed its rally from a 3-1 deficit and took its first lead on Yan Stastny’s shot from the left faceoff dot with 3:33 remaining, and Steve Wagner slipped a shot through from the left point with 2:51 left for insurance, giving the Rivermen 13 goals in their last two games against the Griffins.
The Griffins, who reached the midpoint of their 2007-08 season with a 15-19-2-4 mark, will have a quick chance for redemption on Saturday when they host a rematch with the Rivermen. NASCAR star Greg Biffle will meet fans and sign autographs prior to the 7 p.m. faceoff.
Carl Corazzini gave Grand Rapids the early advantage 9:18 into the opening period, collecting a rebound of Tom Galvin’s shot at the top of the crease and backhanding the puck behind Marek Schwarz. The Rivermen tied matters with 5:41 left in the frame, as Nicholas Drazenovic grabbed a loose puck at center ice, sped down the left side and beat Adam Berkhoel with a wrist shot from the circle.
The Griffins capitalized twice in the first six minutes of the second frame to build that 3-1 cushion. From the right point, Derek Meech threaded a pass into the slot that Mark Cullen redirected past Schwarz at 2:56, and during a wraparound try by Mark Hartigan just 2:20 later, the Rivermen netminder inadvertently knocked the shot into his own net while diving to cover the right post.
The visitors trimmed their deficit to one at the 16:27 mark. After several Peoria chances were blocked out front, an uncovered Stastny finally put a shot past Berkhoel from the left side. An ill-timed pass from behind the Griffins’ net then led to the second tying goal for Peoria, as Nikolay Lemtyugov intercepted the puck in the slot, walked in unchallenged and scored 6:45 into the third period.
Midway through the final frame, the teams traded goals just 10 seconds apart. Grand Rapids went ahead 4-3 when Hartigan knocked home a backdoor feed from AHL All-Star Jonathan Ericsson at 10:03. But Drazenovic scored off the ensuing faceoff to knot the score for the third time, the first of three unanswered goals the Rivermen would score over the final 10 minutes.
Berkhoel, starting his first game since Dec. 15, finished with 21 saves, while Schwarz made 20 stops in the winning effort. The game was highlighted by a lack of penalties, as Peoria enjoyed just two power plays to one for Grand Rapids.