The western-most city to ever host a Griffins playoff game witnessed a wild shootout on Tuesday, as Eric Manlow scored 6:38 into overtime to lift Grand Rapids to a 5-4 win over the Manitoba Moose and a 2-1 lead in the North Division Finals.
After stellar netminding by Jimmy Howard kept the Griffins alive in the third period and overtime, Manlow tipped a Jiri Hudler pass from the left side past Wade Flaherty to boost Grand Rapids to 4-0 on the road and 3-0 in overtime during the playoffs. The best-of-seven series continues on Thursday with Game 4 at the MTS Centre. Faceoff is 8:30 p.m. EDT.
The Griffins jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the contest was five minutes old, scoring on their first three shots to chase Flaherty from the Moose pipes. Just 29 seconds in, Bryan Helmer took a shot from the right point that Matt Ellis, planted atop the crease, redirected through the goalies wickets. At the 2:02 mark, Valtteri Filppula took a Darryl Bootland pass from behind the net and scored from the slot, and Hudlers power play blast from the point into a sea of bodies bounced off a Moose defender and past Flaherty at 4:48, ushering Maxime Ouellet into the game.
Strange circumstances gifted the Moose their first goal at 10:19. Sven Butenschons shot was blocked by Griffins defenseman Terry Virtue to the left of the net, but the puck got caught up in his uniform. Players from both sides hesitated as a moment passed without a whistle, and the puck finally dropped onto the stick of Alexandre Burrows, who buried it inside the right post before Howard could react. Manitoba cut its deficit to one with just 22.5 ticks left in the period. With a man on him in the left corner, Lee Goren flung a pass out high to Ryan Bayda, who beat Howard glove-side with a one-timer from 30 feet.
Flaherty reassumed his position to start the second period, but he promptly surrendered his fourth goal of the night at 6:07. He stopped a cannon from Donald MacLean but the puck slid behind him, and he inadvertently knocked it across the line with his own stick to make it a 4-2 game.
Midway through the frame, just seconds after a 5-on-3 Moose power play became a 5-on-4, Manitoba scored to pull back within one. Kevin Bieksas shot sailed wide right of the net, but Jason Jaffray collected the carom and roofed a shot over a sprawling Howard at 9:49. When Jason King jammed home a loose puck from the right side during a 4-on-3 at 13:39, the game was knotted at four.
Howard was brilliant throughout the third period, making, among others, a glove theft on Jesse Schultz two minutes in, a pair of sliding stops on Bieksa and Goren a minute apart past the midpoint of the frame, and a pad save on Schultz with three minutes left. For his part, Flaherty robbed Hudler with his glove on a 45-foot laser with seven seconds remaining to force overtime.
Howard made another solid stop on Craig Darby just one minute into the extra session before the Griffins offense took over, peppering Flaherty with six shots prior to Manlows game-winner.
The rookie netminder finished with 29 saves to improve to 4-2 in the postseason, while Flaherty suffered his second straight loss, making 20 stops and falling to 5-4. The loss was the first for the Moose at home during the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs (3-1) and just their third in 12 all-time postseason affairs at the MTS Centre (9-3).