McCarty congratulates Berkhoel after the win.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Mark Cullen had a goal and an assist and Darren McCarty assisted on the game-winning goal in his home finale, helping the Grand Rapids Griffins deal a 5-3 defeat to the North Division-leading Toronto Marlies on Wednesday before 6,526 at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins (26-29-2-5), winners of three straight games for the first time since Jan. 16-20, handed the Marlies (38-15-2-5) just their second regulation loss in the 32 games this season in which they’ve scored first. Grand Rapids will look to continue its hot streak on Thursday in an 8 p.m. EST start against the Milwaukee Admirals at the Bradley Center.
After some strong early goaltending by Adam Berkhoel kept Toronto off the board, the Marlies broke through at the 9:12 mark of the opening period. Michel Leveille took a centering pass from Bates Battaglia and one-timed a shot from the high slot that nicked off Berkhoel’s right skate and the left post before settling into the cage.
Facing Toronto netminder Justin Pogge, who entered with a perfect 5-0 record and two shutouts in six career games against Grand Rapids, the Griffins exploded for three goals over the final minutes of the period. Mattias Ritola got things started with a fortunate bounce at 15:54, as his shot redirected off a Toronto player past Pogge to tie the score.
Cullen was at the center of a pair of pretty plays that staked Grand Rapids to a 3-1 lead at the intermission. Racing down the left boards toward a loose puck, he dove at the half-wall to knock it toward Carl Corazzini, who collected it in stride while racing alone down the slot and beat Pogge with a deke and a backhand at 17:46. It marked Corazzini’s fourth straight game with a goal, tying his AHL career best and setting a Griffins season high.
Then, with exactly one minute remaining in the frame, Cullen finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play with Jason Jozsa and Francis Lemieux by threading a shot inside the right post from the top of the left circle. The Griffins’ three goals in a span of just 3:06 equaled the most they’ve ever scored in a full game against Pogge.
An uneventful second period got a jolt starting at 17:19, when Andy Wozniewski roofed a shot over Berkhoel to pull the Marlies within 3-2. Toronto then had a chance to knot the score with 42 seconds left when Tyler Doig was awarded a penalty shot, but Berkhoel got a piece of the attempt to send it wide left of the net and keep the Griffins ahead.
It took Grand Rapids only 45 seconds of the third period to push its advantage back to two goals. Off a rush into the Marlies’ zone, McCarty dropped a pass in the high slot for Ryan Oulahen, who unleashed a cannon that skimmed past Pogge for a 4-2 Griffins lead.
Toronto kept clawing, however, and netted a shorthanded goal at 6:56. A long outlet pass by Reid Cashman sent Doig in on a breakaway, and this time he beat Berkhoel by lifting a shot into the top right corner. But Darren Helm netted an insurance goal with 1:05 remaining, as the Griffins earned their second win in four games against Toronto this season.
Berkhoel finished with 22 saves to claim his fifth win in his last seven decisions, while Pogge stopped the same in suffering his first-ever loss to the Griffins.