10/11/2008 8:23 PM
CLEVELAND – Although the Grand Rapids Griffins fell to the Lake Erie Monsters 4-3 in overtime Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena, the team earned a point in its sixth consecutive season opener under new head coach Curt Fraser. New Griffins Ville Leino and Justin Abdelkader each scored, while Daniel Larsson made 30 saves in his Griffins debut.
Grand Rapids (0-0-1-0) has now earned a point in its last 10 road debuts (8-0-2-0) and six consecutive season openers (4-0-2-0). The Griffins will return to Cleveland next Saturday, Oct. 18, for an afternoon tilt against the Monsters at 1 p.m.
The first goal of the Griffins’ season came just 53 seconds into the contest off the stick of Ryan Oulahen. Jakub Kindl fired a wrist shot from the left point after taking a pass from new Griffins’ captain Darren Haydar. Jason Bacashihua made a left pad save on Kindl’s shot, but left a rebound at the right post that Oulahen buried into the open net. The goal was the second fastest season-opening goal in Griffins’ history (0:33, Dave Van Drunen, 10/12/02 vs. Cleveland).
The Monsters had a great opportunity at the 4:30 mark when Kyle Cumiskey was pulled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. Larsson flashed the pads to stone Cumiskey on the attempt and keep the Griffins up 1-0.
Grand Rapids was awarded a penalty shot of their own just 3:30 later, marking the first game in Griffins history to feature two penalty shots. Darren Helm used great speed to break in on Bacashihua, but was interfered with by the defender before he could take a shot. Bacashihua, who finished the night with 33 saves, kept the goalies perfect on penalty shots by making a blocker save on Helm’s chance.
Marty Sertich tied the game with 7:03 remaining in the first period, but Leino put the Griffins back on top with a goal in his North American debut at the 16:48 mark. After receiving an outlet pass from Landon Wilson he charged in alone and deked Bacashihua to give Grand Rapids a 2-1 lead.
The score stayed that way until the third period, when Jesse Boulerice notched the equalizer 3:14 into the stanza. The tie lasted just 1:45, as Abdelkader restored the Griffins’ lead with his first professional goal, firing a shot from 45 feet that hit a defender’s stick and found the back of the net to make the score 3-2.
Nigel Williams netted a power play goal from 50 feet away at 13:36 of the third period, ultimately forcing overtime. During overtime, Brian Willsie took a shot from the left side that deflected off of Garrett Stafford’s stick and into the left side of the net, ending the game 1:18 into the extra period and handing the Griffins a 4-3 loss.