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UTAH CLAWS PAST GRIFFINS IN SHOOTOUT, 2-1

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Eleven shootout rounds and a record-tying 11 power play chances were not enough to help the Griffins overcome Utah’s spell on Friday, as the Grizzlies outlasted Grand Rapids in a 2-1 shootout decision at Van Andel Arena.

Utah earned its third straight victory versus the Griffins thanks to a 32-save performance by David LeNeveu and a perfect effort by its much-maligned penalty killing unit, which entered the night at an AHL-low rate of 79 percent.

The Griffins (37-20-2-2), who fell one point behind both Cincinnati and Houston into fifth place in the West Division, will have a shot at redemption on Saturday when they host a rematch with the Grizzlies (20-45-2-4) at 7:30 p.m.

Following a scoreless opening period, the Grizzlies needed only 14 seconds to take the lead after the intermission. Winning a battle for the puck behind the net, Peter White flipped a feed out front to a wide-open Fredrik Sjostrom, who beat Joey MacDonald top-shelf from close range.

The Griffins enjoyed a season-high six power play opportunities during the second period, including 48 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage, but could net only an even-strength goal at 16:01. With Grand Rapids controlling play in the Utah zone, Eric Himelfarb collected the puck to the right of the goal and found a streaking Peter Vandermeer, who fired past LeNeveu from the slot.

The score remained deadlocked at one through regulation. Midway through overtime, MacDonald made a brilliant right pad save to keep the Griffins alive, but they were forced to kill off a Utah power play after Niklas Kronwall was whistled for a holding penalty with 2:08 remaining in the period.

Grand Rapids owned a 1-0 advantage after one shootout round thanks to Tomas Kopecky, but Peter White scored for the Grizzlies in the third. Jiri Hudler answered Aaron Gavey in the seventh round to extend the shootout, but Erik Westrum’s tally in the eleventh stanza went unmatched by Kopecky, giving the Grizzlies just their seventh road win of the season.

MacDonald deserved a better fate, denying 17 shots in regulation and seven more in overtime, plus eight attempts in the shootout. In the process, he set a Griffins single-season record for minutes played (3496:19 to Marc Lamothe’s 3438:09 in 2002-03) and tied Pokey Reddick’s standard of 61 games played (1996-97).


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