GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins completed their climb out of what had been a 0-2 series hole with a second straight home win over the regular-season champions on Wednesday, rallying for a 3-2 victory over the Texas Stars to knot their best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Jeff Hoggan, David McIntyre and Andrej Nestrasil scored consecutively in the second period to give the Griffins all the scoring they’d need, while Petr Mrazek earned his 20th playoff win in less than 13 months by making 33 saves.
Grand Rapids will host Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. EDT, before the series shifts back to the Cedar Park Center for Game 6 on Sunday and Game 7, if necessary, on Monday.
Following a scoreless first period, the teams traded power-play tallies early in what became a five-goal second period. Off the opening faceoff, Dustin Jeffrey split defenders at the Griffins’ blue line, rushed in alone and beat Mrazek just 13 seconds into the frame.
Hoggan, the Griffins’ captain, netted the equalizer at the 3:48 mark, darting across the top of Cristopher Nilstorp’s crease to redirect Cory Emmerton’s centering feed inside the left post.
The Griffins benefited from the reversal of a referee’s call to go on top 2-1 with 9:24 left in the period. A shot by Jordin Tootoo bounced off Nilstorp and went airborne in the slot, where McIntyre was waiting to bat the puck home. The goal was immediately waved off on the presumption that McIntyre’s stick was above the crossbar, but the officials huddled for a minute before pointing to center ice, confirming the goal.
Nestrasil increased Grand Rapids’ lead to two just 3:22 later. Mitch Callahan bested two Stars in a battle for the puck along the end boards and quickly pushed it out to Nestrasil, who jammed home a shot from point-blank range.
Former Red Wings defenseman Derek Meech gave Texas momentum heading into the third by scoring 44 seconds before intermission, cutting the visitors’ deficit to one. From the right point, he carried the puck down low and circled around the net before unleashing a backhand shot that eluded Mrazek and trickled across the line.
The Griffins nearly restored their two-goal lead during a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush less than two minutes into the third, but Nilstorp dove to his right to rob Callahan and keep it a one-goal game.
The Stars pressed hard for the tying goal throughout the third, but the Griffins’ defense limited them to a modest 10 shots and Mrazek did the rest, improving his postseason record to 20-12.
Nilstorp, who finished with 22 saves, suffered his first defeat of the playoffs against three wins.
GAME NOTES: The Stars outscored the Griffins 9-2 while winning Games 1 and 2 in Texas, while Grand Rapids has since enjoyed an 8-4 margin in its two home-ice victories. … In two seasons under coach Jeff Blashill, the Griffins are now 11-2 when they’re within two losses of playoff elimination. … All time, Grand Rapids has won three of four best-of-seven series that were tied 2-2, most recently prevailing in the 2013 Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City.
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