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VAL-TERRIFIC



TORONTO – The Grand Rapids Griffins made it three wins in as many nights – receiving a spectacular goaltending performance from rookie Jimmy Howard, and killing off all ten Toronto Marlies power plays in a 3-1 final at Ricoh Coliseum Sunday evening.

Howard turned aside 21 of the 22 shots he faced, including several brilliant stops on the man-advantage for the Marlies. With the victory, the former University of Maine star improved to 3-1-1 on the season.

The Griffins put themselves in peril once again in the early-going with a turnover in their own zone, which Toronto’s Brendan Bell sent immediately from the right point to a wide-open-and-waiting Brett Engelhardt at the bottom of the left circle for the game’s first goal at 4:24 of the opening period.

Just moments into the Griffins’ second power play, a Valtteri Filppula face-off win was corralled by defenseman Nick Martens – who quickly fed the puck into the slot for an electric Kent McDonell one-time blast to tie the score at one.

On the first shift of the second period, head coach Greg Ireland’s hottest line struck again. Tomas Kopecky threw the puck down into the left corner, where Filppula feathered a pass to a streaking Darryl Bootland. The veteran right winger then shoveled a backhand past Marlies backstop Jean-Sebastien Aubin to give Grand Rapids their first lead of the night at 2-1. The trio has combined for 27 points over the last four games – all Griffins victories.

Later in the period, a Matt Ellis high stick off the draw caught Toronto center John Pohl in the face, drawing blood and a five-minute major to give the Marlies their second 5-on-3 opportunity of the night. The Griffins soon recovered, as Nate DiCasmirro exited the penalty box and drew a hooking call against Ben Ondrus to square the skaters at four aside for a bulk of the Ellis major.

At 4:05 of the third, a trademark heavy slapshot by Bryan Helmer from the point squirted behind Aubin, where a well-positioned Filppula was able to bury an easy follow-up in the crease to extend the Griffins advantage to 3-1. Grand Rapids was without the services of leading scorer Jiri Hudler, who was held out of the line-up due to a minor leg injury.

In a North Division showdown, the Griffins visit the Manitoba Moose for back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday nights before returning home for a Saturday night tilt with Hamilton.

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