GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
The Grand Rapids Griffins sixth sellout crowd of the season witnessed a thrilling goaltending battle involving the North Divisions top two teams on Saturday, as the Manitoba Moose rallied for a 3-2 shootout win at Van Andel Arena.
Joey MacDonalds 36-save effort was trumped by the performance of veteran Wade Flaherty, who stopped 42 shots during play and the Griffins last four shootout attempts to help the visitors climb within nine points of first-place Grand Rapids.
Despite the setback suffered while playing its third game in as many nights, Grand Rapids (38-14-1-4) clinched its seventh consecutive winning season, and its ninth winning record in its 10 campaigns overall. Manitoba, meanwhile, improved to 33-17-3-3 after earning its second win at Van Andel Arena in five nights.
It took Donald MacLean only 2:04 to extend his team-record point streak to 19 games, the longest run in the AHL this season. Off a Matt Ellis faceoff win to the right of Flaherty, MacLean walked in close and lifted a shot into the top left corner for his league-high 41st goal.
Ellis put the Griffins ahead 2-0 with his own tally at 10:07, taking a pass from Nate DiCasmirro and blasting the puck home from the doorstep. Grand Rapids, which had dominated play to that point, saw the Moose get on the board at the 13:39 mark, when Jason King found a loose puck in the high slot and blistered a shot over MacDonalds glove.
Manitoba scored the equalizer at 12:29 of the second period. During a Moose power play and a delayed penalty, Lee Goren scored on a quick wrister from the top of the left circle, ending the Griffins streak of 40 straight opponent power plays killed. It also marked just the second goal allowed by the Griffins in their last 50 shorthanded situations.
Three minutes later, the Griffins league-leading power play was awarded a two-man advantage for 1:37. However, an interference call 51 seconds in wiped out the 5-on-3, and the game remained tied at 2-2 after 40 minutes.
Grand Rapids killed three more penalties in the third period, including two in the final five minutes of regulation, to force overtime for the third time in five meetings with the Moose this season. Following the scoreless five-minute frame, Tomas Kopecky scored in the first shootout round for the Griffins, who led 1-0 after two rounds. But Ryan Bayda and Lee Goren scored on Manitobas next two attempts, while Flaherty shut the door to enable his team to prevail 2-1 in the shootout.