It was business-as-usual for Donald MacLean, with another history-making outing in what has been a dream season for the AHL All-Star, in a 7-3 win over the Chicago Wolves at Allstate Arena Sunday afternoon. With his 49th and 50th scores, MacLean became just the 46th player in the 70-year history of the AHL to reach the 50-goal mark in a single season, and he also set a team record for consecutive games with a goal, scoring in his seventh straight contest.
With the victory, the league-leading Griffins (45-16-1-4) clinched a playoff spot for the eighth time in their 10 seasons of play.
After killing off an early penalty, Grand Rapids paid the price on a turnover by Clay Wilson deep in its own zone. Ramzi Abid swiped the puck cleanly and tossed a soft feed into the slot for Jared Ross, who punched it past Joey MacDonald for the centers ninth goal of the season and a 1-0 Chicago edge at 6:19 of the opening period.
MacLean then broke through with number 49, on a velvety pass from trusty sidekick Nate DiCasmirro at 14:07. The AHLs leading goal-scorer started the play himself by pushing the play ahead from center for a streaking DiCasmirro, who routinely fed the puck back between the circles for MacLeans bullet.
A flurry of activity ensued with just under two minutes remaining in the first period. Brett Lebda celebrated a homecoming on two fronts with his third AHL goal of the year on the power play at 18:13. With several friends and family members in attendance, the Buffalo Grove native returned to the Griffins after a four-month tour of duty with Detroit.
Ryan Oulahen followed with a bizarre marker, as a clearing attempt off the stick of goaltender Tuomas Tarkki errantly deflected off the chest of the Griffins rookie and into the back of the net at 18:52. Just moments later, Justin Morrison countered on an odd-man rush for Chicago to trim the Grand Rapids advantage to 3-2 at the end of one.
The Griffins seized control of the contest in the second period, on the strength of a Darryl Bootland goal at 1:48. MacLean then hit the big five-oh on an appropriately dazzling play, sparked by a mesmerizing inside-out move by rookie sensation Valtteri Filppula. A crisp wrister eluded Tarkki, and chased the Wolves netminder from the pipes for the night. Eric Manlow added a 4-on-4 strike at 14:45 of the frame for a 6-2 edge to salt the game away, and DiCasmirro answered a Scott Barney strike with a goal from the doorstep to account for the final margin.
With the four-goal win, Grand Rapids secured the inaugural Comcast Cup Challenge series title with a 2-1-1-0 mark and a 17-16 scoring margin tiebreaker. The Griffins continue their trip up the Lake Michigan shoreline with a Tuesday tilt in Milwaukee against the Admirals at the Bradley Center. Game time is slated for 8 p.m. EST.