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JUMPIN' JIMMY

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Jimmy Howard made a season-high 40 saves to extend his team-record winning streak to 10 games and help the Grand Rapids Griffins tie a franchise mark with their ninth straight victory overall, a 4-1 decision over the Rochester Americans on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.

A crowd of 10,834 – the team’s eighth sellout of the season – watched the Griffins improve their league-leading record to 51-16-1-4, tying for the second-most wins in franchise history and the eighth-most in the AHL’s 70 seasons.

Grand Rapids and Rochester will stage a rematch at Van Andel Arena at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

For the first time in their last seven games, it was the Griffins who jumped out to the 1-0 lead. Taking a feed from Nick Martens, Eric Manlow maneuvered right to left through the slot, patiently waiting until he was below the left circle to lift a shot over Michael Leighton from a sharp angle at 9:56 of the first. Manlow’s goal was his 20th of the season, giving Grand Rapids a team-record six 20-goal scorers.

Due largely to the stellar play of Howard, Grand Rapids held that one-goal advantage until only 42 seconds remained in the second period. Rochester finally broke through thanks to veteran Chris Taylor, who finished off a rush by blasting a one-timer past the netminder’s glove from the left hashmarks.

The Amerks (32-34-2-2) had a tremendous opportunity to take the lead when they were awarded a penalty shot at 8:40 of the third, but Daniel Paille’s attempt sailed wide of the right post. The penalty shot was the fourth for a Griffins opponent this season and the seventh in a row since Grand Rapids was last awarded an attempt.

That misfire proved costly for the visitors less than five minutes later, as the Griffins scored twice within a 46-second span for a commanding two-goal margin. At 13:35, Valtteri Filppula crashed the net to redirect a beautiful Tomas Kopecky pass from the right boards, and Kopecky made it a 3-1 game at 14:21 during a scrum around the Rochester cage, as his shot fluttered over Leighton and dropped across the goal line. Kopecky finished off a three-point period by scoring into an empty net with 2:08 remaining.

Both teams were held scoreless in four power play opportunities, breaking the Griffins’ team-record streak of 13 straight games with a power play goal. While Howard improved to 19-1-1-1 in his last 22 decisions, Leighton suffered the loss with 27 saves, as Rochester fell 11 points behind Toronto and the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division.


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