Garrett Stafford (right) congratulates Justin Abdelkader after his third goal.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins’ offense continued its record-setting clip on Sunday, blasting the Norfolk Admirals by a 6-3 count at Van Andel Arena. Rookie Justin Abdelkader netted a hat trick to give him a team-high six goals in five games, while Darren Haydar (1-2—3) and Ville Leino (0-3—3) also enjoyed three-point nights.
The only Western Conference team yet to suffer a regulation loss, the Griffins are off to the second-best start in the franchise’s 13 seasons at 4-0-1-0, trailing only their 5-0 start from 2004-05. With today’s tally, Grand Rapids has scored at least six goals in three consecutive games for the first time ever, and its 26 total goals are its most ever through the season’s first five games, eclipsing the 22-goal output of the 2005-06 squad that went on to claim the AHL’s regular season title.
For the second time in as many nights, the Griffins used a blistering first period to jump out on top. Abdelkader potted his first of two goals during the frame just 50 seconds in, streaking down the slot to slam home Haydar’s pass from the end boards. Haydar then tallied the first of Grand Rapids’ two power play goals at the 3:14 mark, finding the rebound of Darren Helm’s shot to the left of the cage and quickly putting the puck past Norfolk netminder Karri Ramo.
The Admirals briefly halfed their deficit at 10:57, when Pete Zingoni’s try from below the goal line hit Daniel Larsson and trickled over the line. But Abdelkader reasserted the Griffins’ two-goal cushion during a four-minute advantage at 16:39, stuffing a rebound of Haydar’s blast from the point between Ramo’s pads from the doorstep.
As Hamilton did on Saturday, the Admirals came out with guns blazing in the second period, and they knotted the score with two goals in the opening 2:02. Juraj Simek grabbed a loose puck in the left circle and cleanly beat Larsson just 45 seconds into the stanza before Brandon Segal tied matters during a power play, sliding across the slot and slipping the puck inside the right post.
The score remained 3-3 until 1:45 remained in the period, when Leino tallied his third assist of the game. From the left boards, he sent a pass toward the hashmarks to an in-stride Ryan Oulahen, who fired a shot that beat Ramo to the right post.
Late in the third period, Francis Pare increased the Griffins’ advantage to 5-3 with a beautiful goal, his second in as many games as a pro. Picking up the puck in the right circle, he raced towards the net and patiently worked his way across the top of the crease before finally lifting the puck over a frustrated Ramo. Abdelkader scored into an empty net with 12.7 seconds left for the final margin.
Larsson stopped 28 of 31 shots to improve to 2-1, while Ramo denied 27 of 32 for the Admirals, who fell to 1-4-0-2 with their fourth straight loss.
The Griffins will round out their three-game home stand against the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday at 7 p.m.