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CINCY FINDS LUPUL IN GRIFFINS' COMEBACK ATTEMPT

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Joffrey Lupul’s third goal of the game, midway through the final period, thwarted the Grand Rapids Griffins’ comeback effort and gave the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks a wild 5-4 win before a Tuesday night crowd of 6,094 at Van Andel Arena.

Lupul’s hat trick, the first allowed by Grand Rapids on home ice in exactly two years, extended the Griffins’ winless streak to six games (0-5-0-1), their longest string of misfortune since an 0-6 slide from Jan. 27-Feb. 10, 1999. The Griffins, who have lost all six contests by a total of just nine goals, also tied a dubious franchise record with their fourth straight regulation loss at home.

Grand Rapids (18-12-1-1) will bring a close to an otherwise successful 2004 this Friday when the Hamilton Bulldogs pay a visit for the annual New Year’s Eve Bash. The 7:30 p.m. game will be followed by the largest indoor fireworks show ever held in West Michigan.

The Ducks flew out to a 3-0 lead less than four minutes into the contest, scoring on their first, fifth and sixth shots to chase Drew MacIntyre before the Griffins had even registered their first chance on Ilya Bryzgalov. Alexei Smirnov scored top-shelf on a wrister from the right side at 1:25, before Lupul scored during a goal-mouth scramble at 3:00 and again through MacIntyre’s five-hole at 3:43.

Joey MacDonald entered the game and helped settle the Griffins down as they began to rally. Darryl Bootland made it a 3-1 game prior to intermission, converting a Nathan Robinson pass from the slot at 13:17. A five-minute high-sticking major to Cincinnati’s Cory Pecker 6:27 into the second period presented Grand Rapids with an opportunity it would not squander, as Eric Manlow and Eric Himelfarb scored power play tallies at 10:10 and 11:26 to pull the Griffins even at 3-3 entering the third period.

However, the plucky Ducks would continue applying the pressure, taking two more leads over the final 20 minutes. A Stanislav Chistov rocket from the top of the left circle during a power play at 9:11 made it 4-3 Cincinnati, but Himelfarb answered with his second of the night at 10:23 to again tie the score. The deadlock lasted exactly 90 seconds before Lupul completed his hat trick with a blast from the left circle at 11:53, giving Cincinnati (14-17-0-2) its fourth straight win and fifth triumph in its last six outings.

MacDonald suffered the defeat despite stopping 17 of 19 in relief, while Bryzgalov earned the win with 23 saves.

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