GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Kip Miller’s power play goal at 4:06 of overtime ignited a sellout crowd of 10,834 and gave the Grand Rapids Griffins a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Wolves on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins (35-27-6-5) rallied for just their second win this season when trailing after two periods and earned their first overtime win against six defeats. More importantly, coupled with San Antonio’s 6-3 win over Peoria, Grand Rapids now leads the Rivermen by five points in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with just two weeks left in the regular season.
With five of their seven remaining games to be played on the road, the Griffins will resume their playoff chase on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. visit to Syracuse. The game against the Crunch will be televised live on Comcast Local.
Chicago’s AHL-leading offense scored the lone goal of the first 40 minutes at the 11:05 mark of the opening period. Defenseman Mark Popovic sped down the left side, swooped around a Griffins defender and beat Jimmy Howard on a backhand from point-blank range. The Wolves were denied a larger lead later in the period as Andre Deveaux hit the post behind a diving Howard, while another scoring chance was negated due to the puck being kicked into the net.
With 1:48 left in the frame, Jeff Campbell’s remarkable run of penalty-free play ended when he was whistled off for tripping, his first penalty in 56 games as a Griffin this season.
Scott Parse, playing in just his third pro game, scored the equalizer for the Griffins 3:37 into the third. During a scramble around the Chicago cage, he collected a Matt Ellis rebound in the bottom of the left circle and whipped a shot past Michael Garnett while spinning and falling to the ice.
Howard, who finished with 38 saves on the heels of last night’s 40-stop effort in Hamilton, denied all 15 Wolves chances in the third period to force overtime. Deep into the extra session, Miller took a pass from Parse at the point, maneuvered to the high slot and ripped a shot that slipped through Garnett.
The Griffins stifled the AHL’s top two scorers, Darren Haydar and Brett Sterling, keeping both of them off the scoresheet for just the sixth time in 65 games they’ve played together this season.