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THE FORCE IS WITH US

Oklahoma City Barons 3 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 4 SO

March 3, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Saturday’s battle of irresistible force versus immovable object went the way of the force – an appropriate result on Star Wars Night at Van Andel Arena.

In a game with playoff-like atmosphere and intensity, the Grand Rapids Griffins rode their Western Conference-leading offense to a 4-3 shootout win over the Oklahoma City Barons, who own both the conference’s best record and the AHL’s stingiest defense.

Gustav Nyquist scored a pair of goals to move within one point of the Griffins’ single-season rookie scoring record with 54, while Ty Conklin made 30 saves and stopped all four Barons in the shootout to improve his record to 5-0, matching Mathieu Chouinard’s franchise-best debut from 2000-01.

The Griffins (25-21-5-4), who’ve won five consecutive games for the first time since a nine-game run from Oct. 23-Nov. 13, 2009, will now hit the road for five straight and nine of their next 11, beginning with a 5 p.m. visit to Hamilton on Sunday.

A controversial no-call resulted in an Oklahoma City goal just 3:30 into the opening period. Conklin played the puck behind his net before being spun around and hit by Antti Tyrvainen as he tried to get back to his crease, creating an opening for Triston Grant to slip a shot into the unguarded net.

Goaltending ruled the rest of the frame, highlighted by Conklin robbing Josh Green with a toe save three minutes later and David LeNeveu – the AHL’s second-ranked netminder – stoning Chris Conner from point-blank range in the final minute.

Nyquist dented the Barons’ defense for both of his goals early in the second period, burying a shot into the top corner from high slot during a power play at 1:51 and pounding another home during a goal-mouth scrum at 6:33 to put the Griffins ahead 2-1.

Conklin denied Green with another great pad save with 90 seconds left in the frame, a stop that would gain greater importance when Fabian Brunnstrom made it a 3-1 game with just 42 seconds remaining. After Doug Janik cleared the puck from the Griffins’ slot, Brunnstrom chased it down along the right boards inside the Barons’ zone, skated in on LeNeveu and pulled the netminder out of position before patiently depositing the puck across the line.

Oklahoma City (35-16-2-4) used a power play to pull back within one goal with 5:27 left in the third, as Tyler Pitlick drove the net to redirect Taylor Chorney’s centering pass behind Conklin. Still down 3-2 with their goalie pulled late in the waning minutes, the Barons forced overtime on another deflection, by Magnus Paajarvi, with 1:01 showing on the clock.

Following a scoreless overtime, the first five shooters failed to score before Brunnstrom beat LeNeveu with a backhand in round three. Paajarvi lost the puck on his next attempt, and reigning AHL player of the month Chris Minard ripped a slap shot into the net to ignite a celebration by 8,649 fans.

The Red Wings recalled Conner after the game, making him available to play on Sunday when Detroit hosts Chicago at 4 p.m.

Three Stars: 1. GR Nyquist (two goals); 2. GR Conklin (SOW, 30 saves); 3. GR Brunnstrom (goal, shootout goal, assist)
 

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