GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Jason Krog tallied a hat trick and an assist on Friday to pace the Manitoba Moose to a 6-4 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena.
The Moose rode four unanswered first-period goals to a victory that broke a tie with the Griffins for first place in the North Division and snapped Grand Rapids’ nine-game point streak on home ice (7-0-2-0).
The Griffins (24-9-5-3), who suffered just their second regulation loss since Dec. 13, will hit the road for a pair against the Rockford IceHogs, starting with an 8:05 p.m. EST tilt Saturday at the Rockford MetroCentre.
Midway through the opening period, after Grand Rapids had squandered a pair of early power play opportunities, the visitors scored three goals in less than three minutes to chase all-star netminder Daniel Larsson from the Griffins’ crease. A streaking Jason Jaffray took a pass from Krog in the high slot and fired a shot that deflected off Larsson’s glove and into the top of the cage at 8:14, and Guillaume Desbiens tapped a rebound into a gaping net from the left side at 10:48. Larsson’s night ended in favor of Jimmy Howard just 17 seconds later, when Krog’s centering pass from the right corner deflected off the skate of a Griffins defenseman and into the net to put Manitoba up 3-0.
With 1:02 left in the frame, former Griffin Mark Cullen started Michael Grabner on a 2-on-1 into the Grand Rapids zone, and Grabner pulled up high in the right circle and ripped a wrist shot past Howard, giving the Moose four goals on just 10 shots.
Grand Rapids finally solved Cory Schneider and got on the board during a power play at 12:16 of the second, as Jonathan Ericsson’s blast from the blueline sailed through traffic and past the netminder’s glove. However, the inroad into the Moose’s margin lasted only 5:03, as Krog sent a shot from the hashmarks that managed to elude Howard.
The teams traded goals in the early going of the third. Krog notched his third of the game by bouncing a shot off Howard from below the goal line at 2:15, while the Griffins’ Francis Pare took advantage of a fortunate carom off the end boards to tap the puck into an empty net at 8:44, giving the rookie goals in six of the last nine games and making it 6-2.
The Griffins crept closer in the game’s final minutes, with Ville Leino depositing puck that was loose in the crease during a power play with 3:07 left, and Pare getting his second of the night from the slot with 36 ticks remaining.
Krog became the first player to net a hat trick against the Griffins since his Moose teammate Jaffray pulled off the feat on May 1, 2007, in Game 7 of the North Division Semifinals at the MTS Centre.
Despite the loss, Grand Rapids did set a franchise record by holding the opponent’s power play scoreless for a tenth consecutive game. The Griffins’ penalty killers have now denied 39 consecutive chances, six shy of another team standard.
Howard suffered the tough-luck loss, finishing with 18 saves, while Larsson had four stops in the no-decision. Schneider allowed a season-high four goals on 30 shots in the win.
Three Stars: 1. MTB Krog (hat trick, assist); 2. MTB Sawada (two assists); 3. GR Pare (two goals, assist)