GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Kyle Chipchura scored twice to pace the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 5-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday at Van Andel Arena, marking the Griffins’ first regulation loss to a North Division rival this season.
Grand Rapids, now 5-1-2-1 against its divisional foes, saw two other impressive runs snapped tonight, as its six-game point streak and eight-game home point streak ended. The Griffins (12-6-3-3) will face their two most important games of the season to date next Friday and Saturday, when they visit the MTS Centre for their only road clashes with the division-leading Manitoba Moose.
The Griffins used an early power play to take the lead 56 seconds into the contest. Garrett Stafford took a slap shot from the right point that flew wide of the net and caromed off the end boards, but the puck slid beneath Hamilton goalie Cedrick Desjardins and out free into the slot, where Darren Haydar was waiting to pop it into the vacated cage.
After being repeatedly denied by some stellar work by Jimmy Howard, Hamilton broke through during a two-man advantage at 13:04, as Chipchura chipped home a rebound of Yannick Weber’s shot from the right of the net. The Bulldogs then went ahead 2-1 at the 17:40 mark, when Mathieu Aubin sped down the left side, took an initial shot that Howard turned aside, and crashed the crease to knock the puck over Howard as the netminder fell backwards into his net.
Howard, who deserved a better fate in the first period, fared no better early in the second as Hamilton extended its cushion 4:26 into the frame. He stopped Dan Jancevski’s blast from the left point, but David Desharnais found the rebound on the doorstep and lifted a shot past a sprawled Howard to make it a 3-1 game.
The Griffins began to find new energy later in the period, thanks to a goal and a pair of fights that brought the partisan throng of 9,628 to life. At the 11:56 mark, a scrum in front of the Hamilton net resulted in Cory Emmerton’s first professional goal, and shortly thereafter fights involving Aaron Downey and Justin Abdelkader brought the fans to their feet. However, that momentum was halted with 2:41 left before intermission, as Ryan White tallied in-close on the power play to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 advantage after 40 minutes.
Chipchura iced matters with his second goal at 10:19 of the third, snapping a shot past Howard from the slot. Howard finished with 28 saves, while Desjardins made 23 stops for the win.
Chris Chelios concluded his conditioning stint with the Griffins tonight, showing one assist, two penalty minutes, four shots and an even rating for his two games in Grand Rapids.
Three Stars: 1. HAM Chipchura (2 goals); 2. HAM Desharnais (game-winning goal); 3. GR Emmerton (goal)