Jimmy Howard made 34 saves and Grand Rapids penalty killers denied all nine Manitoba power play chances, as the Griffins earned a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Moose on Saturday at the MTS Centre.
After Grand Rapids had jumped out 3-0 early in the second period, the Moose rallied with a whopping 30-2 shot advantage the rest of the way, but the visitors withstood the onslaught to take a three-games-to-two lead in the North Division Finals. The Griffins will have a chance to close out the series at home on Monday, when they host Game 6 at Van Andel Arena. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Griffins needed a fast start to help purge the demons from Game 4, and they got it in the form of a Nate DiCasmirro goal just 1:07 into the game. Wade Flaherty made an initial save on Brett Lebda, but the rebound came out to the right circle to Jiri Hudler, who quickly fired a shot that glanced off DiCasmirros stick on the way into a yawning cage.
Grand Rapids kept applying the pressure and took a 2-0 lead at the 4:36 mark. From the right boards, Valtteri Filppula sent a long pass through two Moose defenders to Darryl Bootland, who slammed it past Flaherty from the left side.
Eleven minutes in, Howard stifled a shorthanded breakaway by Rick Rypien, shutting his five-hole to maintain his teams two-goal cushion. The Griffins continued to carry the play through intermission, showing a 19-6 shot advantage and finishing one shy of the franchise playoff record for shots in a period.
Off a flurry around the Manitoba net early in the second period, Filppula forced a turnover deep in the zone and steered the puck up to Hudler, who sent a wrist shot over Flahertys left shoulder from the right hashmarks at 1:52.
The Moose finally awoke after the Griffins had built a 25-6 lead in shots five minutes into the period, firing off the next 15 shots and creating numerous scoring chances. Howard with some help from the iron behind him on two occasions was up to the task, however, keeping Manitoba off the board and his team ahead 3-0 at the second break.
That good fortune ended during an innocent-looking rush 49 seconds into the third period. Craig Darby carried the puck up the right boards and across the Griffins line before ripping a shot from the top of the circle that sailed into the top of the net.
The Moose continued to pour on the heat, and despite several stellar saves by Howard, pulled within one at the 17:17 mark. Five seconds after a Manitoba power play expired, a Rypien one-timer from the high slot skidded along the ice and through Howards pads.
Howard, with 9,185 fans chanting his name in unison, shut the door the rest of the way, improving his playoff record to 5-3.
Grand Rapids prevailed despite another large disparity in power play chances. Manitoba, which had been awarded 17 of the previous 22 opportunities entering the game, received nine on the night to only four for the Griffins.
Flaherty, who suffered just his second loss in 12 all-time playoff games at the MTS Centre, finished with 24 saves.