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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
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 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
7 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 53 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 54 10 27 4 37
T. Tatar 53 16 17 0 33
G. Nyquist 54 14 16 0 30
P. Datsyuk 39 8 21 13 29
J. Abdelkader 54 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 40 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 50 7 8 13 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 21 10 4 .934 1.94
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89