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GUT CHECK

Lake Erie Monsters 3 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5

Feb. 15, 2013

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
Mitch Callahan’s two goals and Tom McCollum’s 26 saves helped a decimated Grand Rapids Griffins squad break a two-game skid with a 5-3 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday, in front of another sellout crowd of 10,834 at Van Andel Arena.

With injuries in Detroit or Grand Rapids robbing their lineup of 39 percent of its point production, 43 percent of its goals and 59 percent of its wins – including their top four scorers and their all-star goalie – the Griffins rallied from a 3-2 deficit to take the lead before surviving a Lake Erie power play in the final minutes and capping off the win with Jeff Hoggan’s empty-netter at 19:40.

The Griffins (28-16-2-2), who increased their lead atop the Midwest Division to eight points over idle Chicago, will enjoy their final open Saturday of the regular season before hosting the Charlotte Checkers on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Callahan put the Griffins on the board at 14:52 of the opening period, slamming home a centering pass from Luke Glendening, who had just dug the puck out of the right corner.

But Lake Erie answered with goals late in the first and early in the second to go on top 2-1. Following a turnover in the neutral zone, Tyler McNeely put a shot just inside the left post at 17:34, before Paul Carey rang a shot off the iron and into the net 1:06 into the middle frame.

A few minutes later, Callahan shot wide of the net from the slot during a rush, but he stayed in front of the net to pot Hoggan’s pass from the end boards at the 5:44 mark.

The teams then traded power play tallies before the buzzer, making it a 3-3 contest through 40 minutes. Lake Erie’s Karl Stollery connected on a long shot through traffic from just inside the blue line at 14:20, before Chad Billins pulled the Griffins even with a great individual effort. Taking a pass from Tomas Jurco in the high slot, Billins scooped a backhander on net that Kent Patterson denied, but he rushed in to deposit his own rebound from the doorstep with 3:41 remaining in the period.  

Another power play goal midway through the third moved the Griffins ahead 4-3, as Nathan Paetsch found a rebound on the left side and quickly flung the puck into the net at the 9:34 mark. The Monsters (24-19-2-5) pressed for the equalizer after a Glendening boarding penalty with 2:13 remaining and pulled Patterson for an extra attacker with a minute left, but Grand Rapids’ defense held firm before Hoggan stole the puck in his zone and sent it 140 feet down the ice into the vacated net.

Patterson, making his second career AHL start, made 26 saves in the loss, while McCollum set a personal AHL best with his 12th win of the season.

Notes: The Griffins’ four sellouts this season mark their most since logging the same number in 2010-11 and give the franchise 140 in its 17-year history…Grand Rapids’ three sellouts in its last five home games mark the team’s best stretch since ending 2008-09 with four straight capacity crowds…Joakim Andersson scored his first NHL goal and Tomas Tatar lit the lamp for the second straight game tonight in Detroit’s 5-2 loss to Anaheim. The Grand Rapids linemates assisted on each other’s goals as well.

Three Stars: 1. GR Callahan (two goals); 2. GR Paetsch (game-winning goal); 3. GR Andrej Nestrasil (assist)
 

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