OKLAHOMA CITY – The Grand Rapids Griffins need one more win to advance to their first Calder Cup finals in franchise history, following an impressive 3-0 win over the Oklahoma City Barons on Sunday at the Cox Convention Center.
Petr Mrazek posted his second straight shutout behind 37 saves, extending his personal shutout streak to 161:38 and his consecutive saves streak to 100, as he became just the 15th goalie in AHL history to post consecutive shutouts twice in the same postseason.
Now holding a 3-2 lead in the series, the Griffins could clinch a finals appearance against the Syracuse Crunch as soon as Tuesday, when they’ll welcome the Barons back to Van Andel Arena for Game 6. Game time is 7 p.m., and tickets are available at griffinshockey.com. Game 7, if necessary, would be played in Grand Rapids on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Gustav Nyquist was briefly knocked from the game by a questionable but unpenalized hit 57 seconds into the second period. With the Griffins breaking out of their zone, Nyquist made a pass just before the red line and took a stride before Chris VandeVelde made a blind-side hit from the right, appearing to strike Nyquist’s head with his left shoulder. After lying on the ice for a minute, he gingerly skated to the locker room before returning to the bench with 12:45 remaining in the frame.
Mrazek’s larceny was on display with under seven minutes left, when he darted across to his left post to stone a point-blank chance by Ryan Martindale, who showed his frustration seconds later by fighting Landon Ferraro.
Tomas Jurco drew first blood for the Griffins at the 15:13 mark. After Francis Pare had chipped the puck up the right boards, Jurco chased Barons defenseman Randy Jones down in the neutral zone and chipped the puck ahead to himself for a breakaway, finishing it off by flipping a shot into the top left corner of Yann Danis’ net.
Mitch Callahan made it 2-0 with a shorthanded goal 1:59 later, when Joakim Andersson won a race for the puck along the left boards, turned and threw it toward the net, where a wide-open Callahan redirected it into the back door.
Andersson set up the Griffins’ third goal in a span 4:14 with just 33 seconds left before intermission, centering a pass from the right side to an unmarked Tomas Tatar, who ripped a shot past Danis from between the circles.
The Barons had a golden opportunity to dent Mrazek with 6:58 left in the third period, when consecutive penalty calls on Adam Almquist (holding) and Brennan Evans (delay of game) presented them with 1:55 of a 5-on-3 power play. But the Griffins’ penalty killers rose up to the challenge, making Oklahoma City 0-for-6 with the advantage on the night.
Incredibly, Mrazek’s current shutout streak of 161:38 is only his second-longest of the postseason, as he kept opponents scoreless for 178:58 over four games spanning the conference quarterfinals against Houston and the semifinals versus Toronto.
GAME NOTE: The Griffins have held a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series on five prior occasions, ultimately winning four of them. Their only loss was to Manitoba in the 2007 North Division semifinals…In the two games since Andersson and Nyquist returned from Detroit, Grand Rapids has gone 3-for-6 on the power play. Over the series’ first three games, the Griffins went 0-for-9.
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