McCarty and his teammates celebrate the first of his three goals.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Newly re-employed Hollywood writers couldn’t have dreamed up this plot. Playing before his largest Michigan home crowd in nearly four years and making his Griffins debut at Van Andel Arena, Darren McCarty tallied a hat trick and added an assist to power Grand Rapids to a 6-3 win over the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday.
The immensely popular former Red Wing scored 5:53 into the first period, 2:17 into the second and 2:45 into the third to ignite the throng of 10,062 and provide one of the most memorable and magical nights in the Griffins’ 12-year history. He capped off his four-point evening – the first of his 16-year career – with a helper on Grand Rapids’ final goal.
For those who missed tonight’s game, about 1,000 tickets remain for Saturday’s act two, when the Griffins will host the Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m.
Dan DaSilva gave Lake Erie the lead during a power play just 5:19 into the contest but it was short-lived, as McCarty answered with his first goal as a Griffin 34 seconds later. On a rush into the Monsters’ zone, Darren Helm fired a shot from the left side that Mike Wall turned aside, but McCarty pounced on the fat rebound in the right circle and blasted the puck just under the crossbar.
Undaunted, the visitors again went ahead at the 13:11 mark, when Eric Healey collected a rebound amid a host of Griffins and beat a sprawled Adam Berkhoel from below the left circle to make it a 2-1 game.
The Griffins scored three unanswered goals in the middle frame to seize a 4-2 advantage through 40 minutes. McCarty notched his second of the night by stuffing a backhanded wraparound through Wall’s pads during a power play early on, before Jonathan Ericsson blistered a pinpoint shot into right corner from atop the left circle at 11:24 to give Grand Rapids its first lead of the night. Mark Hartigan padded that cushion with his team-high 23rd of the campaign while the Griffins were shorthanded, leading an odd-man rush down the right side, drawing Wall out of his net and patiently depositing the puck behind the netminder with 5:54 remaining in the period.
McCarty completed his incredible hat trick minutes into the final period with a slap shot from the top of the right circle that sailed past Wall’s blocker, commencing a cascade of hats, clothing and even a shoe onto the ice surface. His only prior three-goal performance as a pro came as a Red Wing against Colorado in Game 1 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
Lake Erie’s Wyatt Smith (15:51) and the Griffins’ Ryan Oulahen (16:23) traded goals in the final minutes, the latter’s coming off McCarty’s assist.
Overshadowed on the night was a fourth consecutive strong effort by Berkhoel, who made 21 saves to improve to 2-1-1 with a 1.73 goals against average and a 0.933 save percentage in his last four games. Wall made 31 stops in the loss.