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GRIN AND BARON

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – First-place Grand Rapids and seventh-place Cleveland followed the script on Wednesday at Van Andel Arena, as the Griffins earned their third straight win with a 5-1 decision over the Barons.

Donald MacLean moved within one goal of Michel Picard’s single-season franchise record with his 45th, and the Griffins claimed their best record ever through 62 games at 42-15-1-4. Their 42 wins and 89 points pace the entire AHL.

Grand Rapids, which now owns an 11-point lead over second-place Syracuse in the North Division race, will travel to Chicago on Friday for its first game at Allstate Arena in almost a year. Game time is set for 8:30 p.m. EST.

The Griffins’ league-leading power play gave Grand Rapids a 1-0 lead on its first opportunity of the night, 11:10 into the opening period. Kyle Quincey took a blast from the left point that was turned aside by Dimitri Patzold, but Darryl Bootland collected the rebound below the left circle and scored his 18th goal of the season, tying his career high.

The home team increased its margin to 3-0 early in the middle frame. MacLean scored on a breakaway at the 1:34 mark, getting sprung by a long Bryan Helmer pass up the gut and solving Patzold with a wrister from the hashmarks.

Exactly 90 seconds later, Quincey sent a shot on net from the blueline that Jiri Hudler redirected into the cage. The goal gave the Griffins two 30-goal scorers for just the fourth time in franchise history. Later in the period, at the 12:22 mark, Kent McDonell celebrated his 27th birthday with his 19th goal of the campaign, giving Grand Rapids a commanding 4-0 cushion at the second intermission. Hudler was credited with an assist on the play, pushing his team-leading point total to 78.

The Barons (22-37-2-2), who to that point had seen their opponents score 13 unanswered goals over the previous six periods, ended Jimmy Howard’s shutout bid on Mike Iggulden’s power-play one-timer from the left circle with 8:30 remaining. Howard nonetheless finished with 20 saves, leading the Griffins to points for the 13th time in his last 14 decisions.

Nick Martens surprised Patzold with a shot from the blue line at the 19:12 mark for the final margin, as the Barons fell to 2-13-1-1 over their last 17 outings. Tomas Kopecky, who made his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday in San Jose, arrived at the arena about 45 minutes prior to faceoff and was inserted into the Griffins’ lineup, earning an assist.

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