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Griffins win marathon playoff opener

Sproul scores game-winner in double OT while Mrazek makes 55 saves in 2-1 win

Saturday, 04.26.2014 / 4:46 AM ET / Recap
By Randy Cleves  - Griffins Senior Director of Public Relations
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Griffins win marathon playoff opener
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Grand Rapids goalie Petr Mrazek made a playoff franchise-high 55 saves in Friday's 2-1 double overtime victory at Abbotsford. (Photo by Clint Trahan/Abbotsford Heat)

ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia – The defending Calder Cup champions never played overtime during their 2013 playoff run, but they more than made up for it during Friday’s record-setting playoff opener in Abbotsford, as the Grand Rapids Griffins rode a historic 55-save performance by Petr Mrazek to a 2-1 double overtime win against the Heat.

Ryan Sproul ended the marathon at 19:26 of the fifth period when his long shot from the right boards deflected past Abbotsford netminder and fellow AHL All-Rookie Team member Joni Ortio, ending the third-longest game in franchise history and giving the Griffins the upper hand in their best-of-five conference quarterfinal series.

Grand Rapids, which owns an all-time playoff series record of 8-2 when winning Game 1, will look to sweep the B.C. portion of this series on Saturday when the Heat host Game 2 in a 10 p.m. EDT start at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre. Game 3 is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.

Mrazek’s 55 stops were the most ever for a Griffins goalie, eclipsing 54-save efforts by both Mike Fountain and Pokey Reddick in playoff games versus Orlando back in the team’s IHL days.

Defenseman Adam Almquist, was much less fortunate than Mrazek, though, as he suffered an apparent lower body injury early in the opening period when he was leveled from behind in the right corner by an unpenalized Max Reinhart long after the whistle had blown on an offside play. Almquist eventually was assisted off the ice and did not return to the game.

The Heat struck soon after at the 11:44 mark. Mrazek, making his 25th straight playoff start dating to the beginning of the 2013 playoffs, made a pair of terrific point-blank saves before Brett Olson found a rebound on the left side and quickly popped the puck into a wide-open net.

That goal held up until the latter half of the third period, as Grand Rapids withstood Abbotsford’s 15-4 shot advantage during the middle frame to keep its deficit at a single goal.

Two of the newest Griffins teamed up to produce the tying goal with 7:23 left in regulation. Mattias Backman took a slick centering pass from Andreas Athanasiou in the high slot and hesitated with a toe drag before ripping a shot into the left corner of the net.

Grand Rapids, which had seen 30 consecutive postseason games – including its entire championship run – decided in regulation time, proceeded to overtime for the first time in the playoffs since a 4-3 loss to Hamilton in Game 4 of the North Division semifinals on April 22, 2009.

The Griffins managed to survive the first overtime despite being outshot 13-5, capping off a scoreless 60-minute span in which the Heat enjoyed an incredible but fruitless 35-12 shot advantage.

Grand Rapids rebounded in the second overtime, building a 13-8 shot cushion that culminated in Sproul’s game-winner. With an elapsed time of 99:26, the game was one second longer than the Griffins’ first-ever playoff overtime game (April 21, 1997) and shorter than only a pair of triple-overtime contests.

Ortio’s 39 saves earned him third star honors. The Heat went 0-for-6 on the power play while the Griffins were scoreless in four opportunities.

GAME NOTES: The Griffins set a franchise playoff record with their sixth consecutive road victory, dating to Game 4 of the 2013 Western Conference finals in Oklahoma City. … The end time of 2:01 a.m. EDT was the latest ever for a Grand Rapids game. … All time during the playoffs, the Griffins improved to 4-0 in games decided in double overtime and 6-1 in road games that extend past regulation.

THREE STARS: 1. GR Petr Mrazek (W, 55 saves); 2. ABB Joni Ortio (L, 39 saves); 3. GR Ryan Sproul (game-winning goal)

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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