Playing without forward Tomas Kopecky for the first time following his call-up to the Detroit Red Wings, the Grand Rapids Griffins dug in for a 4-3 win over the Hershey Bears at the Giant Center Sunday evening.
A power play goal put the Bears up early, as Jakub Klepis fired a bullet from the point that ricocheted off goaltender Joey MacDonald directly to an opportunistic Boyd Gordon. The centers 12th goal of the season made it 1-0 at 10:44 of the first.
Matt Ellis generated the equalizer just 3:25 into the second with a terrific individual effort, digging the puck from behind the Hershey net and surprising Frederic Cassivi with a five-hole shot. The unassisted goal was the captains 16th of the year.
The Bears capitalized on the power play for the second time in six chances to retake the lead at 2-1 with 11:18 remaining in the second period. Eric Fehr notched his 23rd, and Hershey would finish 3-of-10 with the man-advantage in the contest.
The tide turned dramatically when the Bears embarked upon their eighth power play of the game, as the Griffins forced a turnover resulting in a 2-on-1 short-handed chance. With Eric Himelfarb flanking his attack, Clay Wilson buried a shot to balance the ledger at two-all at 15:05 of the frame.
Awarded a two-man advantage at 7:03 of the third, the Griffins made short work of the Hershey penalty kill which had successfully rebuffed 40 previous opponent power plays. The Donald MacLean Show began with a marker just 23 seconds into what would have been 1:28 of 5-on-3 time. MacLean struck again with a thunderbolt just two minutes later to give Grand Rapids a 4-2 lead that would prove decisive. The all-star forward stands just two goals back of Michel Picards all-time single-season club mark (46) with 44 on the year. A late Bears goal by Boyd Kane provided the final margin.
Grand Rapids finishes the month of February with an 8-3-0-1 record, 41-15-1-5 overall. With 87 points, the Griffins maintain a nine-point edge over the Syracuse Crunch for first place in the North Division. The team has already matched their win total from a year ago, and surpassed last seasons mark for points (86), with 19 games remaining on the schedule.
The Griffins will play eight of their next twelve games at Van Andel Arena, where they have posted a sterling 21-5-1-3 record through 30 home games. The month of March begins with a 7 p.m. start Wednesday night against the Cleveland Barons, against whom Grand Rapids is 5-1-0-0 this season. In their last meeting, the Griffins set a single-game season-high for goals aided by a hat trick from Kopecky in a 9-2 victory at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.