Darren McCarty separates Alex Henry from his tooth during a second-period brawl.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Trailing 5-0 to the Milwaukee Admirals after 20 minutes, the Grand Rapids Griffins mounted a furious second-period rally to pull within one but ultimately succumbed in a 6-4 final on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.
Following their weekend split at home, the Griffins (21-26-2-5) will host San Antonio and former head coach Greg Ireland on Tuesday in a 7 p.m. start, the Rampage’s only visit of the season.
Two goals by Janne Niskala gave the Admirals a 2-0 lead before many in the sellout crowd of 10,834 had settled into their seats. His floater from the left point weaved through a sea of bodies and past Adam Berkhoel at 5:32, and he deposited a Jason Guerriero pass for an easy goal at 10:46 after being left alone on the back door.
Milwaukee scored on its next two shots to chase Berkhoel from the crease in favor of Cody Rudkowsky. Cal O’Reilly connected on a slap shot from the high slot at 15:46, and 53 seconds later, Matt Ellison sped around a Griffins defender to give the visitors their fourth goal on just five shots. O’Reilly picked up his fourth point of the period on the play.
Rudkowsky made a fine pad save seconds into his relief stint to momentarily stop the bleeding, but Kevin Ulanski struck for his first AHL goal as the curtain fell on the frame to make it 5-0. Milwaukee, which tallied its bounty despite being out-shot 17-7, tied a Griffins record for most opponent goals in a home period. The ignominious mark was established twice before, most recently in the second period of a 6-2 loss to the IHL’s Cleveland Lumberjacks on Oct. 13, 1999.
Berkhoel returned to the Griffins’ net to begin the second period. On the other end, Grand Rapids continued to pepper Maxime Daigneault, finally solving him on the team’s 23rd shot, a power play goal by Ryan Oulahen 1:56 into the frame. Just 1:05 later, Evan McGrath cut the deficit to three by chasing the puck down along the left goal line and somehow threading a quick shot between Daigneault and the near post, prompting the Admirals to use their timeout.
Grand Rapids kept applying the pressure and scored a pair of power play goals 31 seconds apart midway through the game to remarkably claw back to within a goal at 5-4. During a two-man advantage, Garrett Stafford blew a shot past the goalie’s glove at 9:02, ushering Pekka Rinne into the contest. However, the AHL All-Star was quickly beaten by Jamie Tardif off a rebound from the right side, as the Griffins set their season high for goals in a period and increased their shot lead to 30-9.
Having never earned a point in a game in which they trailed by five goals, the Griffins came out in the third intending to make history, but Milwaukee (27-22-3-2) scored at the 10:50 mark for the final margin. Berkhoel denied an initial attempt by John Vigilante but the puck dropped free behind him, allowing Guerriero an easy tap-in.
Berkhoel (15 saves) and Rudkowsky (one save, loss) helped keep the Admirals scoreless in five power play chances, while their teammates were able to convert three of four opportunities against Daigneault (25, win) and Rinne (14). Grand Rapids enjoyed a 43-22 advantage in shots on the night.