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GRIFFINS EVADE GRIZZLIES, 4-3

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Joey MacDonald stopped all four enemy attempts in the shootout and watched Tomas Kopecky and Eric Manlow score on the other end, as the Grand Rapids Griffins earned a 4-3 victory over the Utah Grizzlies on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.

The Griffins (38-30-2-2), who overcame a pair of one-goal deficits to improve to 9-2-0-1 in their last 12 overall and 7-2-1-1 in their last 11 at home, stayed within one point of both Cincinnati and Houston in the race for the final two playoff spots in the West Division with eight games remaining for each team. They’ll wrap up their ninth three-in-three of the season on Sunday with a 4 p.m. visit to Hamilton.

The Grizzlies (20-45-2-5) jumped on top for the second straight night 8:24 into the contest, when Eric Labelle found a loose puck in the crease and popped it past MacDonald. However, Grand Rapids needed all of 36 seconds to tie the score, as Ryan Barnes jammed home a pass from Peter Vandermeer on the doorstep.

Utah regained the upper hand in the second period on a shorthanded goal by Erik Westrum, his second of the season against Grand Rapids. He blasted a shot past MacDonald’s glove from the top of the left circle at 7:59.

The Griffins, trying to keep pace in the divisional race and avoid becoming the first home team to be swept by Utah in a two-game set, drew even with 4:11 remaining in the period. Immediately after a Grizzlies scoring chance on the other end, Jiri Hudler broke in alone on Jamie Storr and beat him with a glove-side wrister from the hashmarks.

Eric Himelfarb gave the Griffins their first lead in nearly 115 minutes played against the Grizzlies over the last two nights midway through the third period, beating Storr to the near post at the 9:42 mark. Shortly thereafter, a Niklas Kronwall high-sticking major gave Utah a 5-on-3 advantage, and the Grizzlies tied it on Westrum’s second goal of the game. Prior to that goal, Grand Rapids had killed off the previous 29 opponent power plays.

Utah received an eighth power play with just 1:49 left in regulation, but the Griffins killed it off to force overtime.

MacDonald, who finished with 26 saves, made his 62nd appearance of the season to set a Griffins record, and his 32nd win moved him within two of Mike Fountain’s standard. He also pushed his franchise-record streaks to 27 consecutive games played and 20 straight starts.


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