GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Former Grand Rapids Griffins goalie Adam Berkhoel didn’t get his fourth straight shutout on Friday but did make a triumphant return to Van Andel Arena, leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 3-2 shootout win over his old team.
Darren Helm scored both goals for Grand Rapids, which extended its home point streak to four games (3-0-0-1) but dropped to 8-4-2-2 on the season. The Griffins, 0-2-0-1 in their last three outings overall, will try to get back on the winning track on Saturday, when they visit Allstate Arena for an 8 p.m. EST tilt against the Chicago Wolves.
Berkhoel, who logged one shutout in 31 games for the Griffins last season, entered the game with three consecutive blankings and a streak of 183 minutes without allowing a goal. During most of the first period it appeared that run might continue indefinitely, as Ville Leino rang a wrist shot off the left post with four minutes remaining and Justin Abdelkader was denied on a shorthanded breakaway with 2:30 left.
However, all those scoring chances finally paid off with 15.6 seconds remaining in the frame, as Helm sped in on another shorthanded break and stuffed the puck between Berkhoel’s pads, snapping his former teammate’s shutout streak at 202:44.
The Penguins knotted the score five seconds after their own penalty expired early in the middle stanza. Connor James corralled a loose puck at center ice and spearheaded a 3-on-0 against Daniel Larsson, beating him from the slot at the 2:52 mark. Helm’s second goal of the game put the Griffins back on top at 12:30, though, as he took a pass from Leino and slammed a shot past Berkhoel from just above the left hashmarks.
AHL leading goal scorer Chris Menard pulled Wilkes-Barre even during a 4-on-3 power play with 5:29 remaining in the third, as he crashed the net to tip a Janne Pesonen centering feed over Larsson’s shoulder for his 15th tally of the campaign.
After each team survived an opponent’s power play during overtime, the Baby Pens (10-6-0-1) prevailed 2-0 in the shootout thanks to goals by Pesonen and Mark Letestu, as well as Berkhoel and the iron behind him. Ryan Oulahen hit the left post while staring at a gaping cage in round one and Helm found the crossbar in the third round.
Berkhoel finished with 35 saves, while Larsson posted his third straight strong outing with 30 stops.
A crowd of 7,430 watched the contest, giving the Griffins a year-to-date attendance increase of 13.3 percent over the first eight home games of the 2007-08 season.
Three Stars: 1. GR Helm (2 goals); 2. WBS Berkhoel (W, 35 saves); 3. GR Larsson (SOL, 30 saves)